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Heritage Academy performance to benefit homeless animals

Corbin Cherkas sings his solo, "Dance Tonight" by Paul McCartney, during a rehearsal for Heritage Academy's benefit performance. Reminder Publications photo by Courtney Llewellyn

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW The Hebrew phrase Tikkun Olam means "repairing the world" or "perfecting the world" and the afterschool performance group at Heritage Academy is working toward that goal by focusing on animal awareness and preventing cruelty to animals (Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim).

"I have always had a strong passion for caring for dogs, and this year, I am sharing this passion with my students by starting an afterschool club where the performing arts merges with community-based learning," teacher Jami Zmurko said. The 24 students in the program, all third through fifth graders, seem to share her passion.

"This helps out homeless animals," fourth grader Eli Kessler said. "Animals need homes and need to be cared for better."

Heritage Academy partnered with the Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center in Springfield to raise awareness for animals in need.

"We do a show every year but never with this connection to the community before," Zmurko explained. "It's great for the kids to connect."

The benefit production will take place the evening of April 15 at 6:30 p.m. Guests are asked to bring either a monetary or animal care-related donation in exchange for their admittance.

Zmurko said the afterschool program has already raised $500 for the animal shelter and has gathered many much needed items for the dogs and cats of the shelter as well.

"It's cool we get to share our feelings about animals with others," fifth grader Lianne Zana said. "I think animals are really special and should be treated better than they are sometimes. They're not just objects in a house they're members of your family."

Eden Burke, a third grader, said she joined the program because she loves animals and "wanted to save them from getting hurt."

Rehearsals for the show began in November. Zmurko helped the students write their speeches and chose the music they would be performing. She thanked Liz Berke, who served as a singing coach and Davina Acker, who choreographed the ballet solo, for their help.

The students may not be able to perfect the world for animals with this benefit performance, but their hard work and enthusiasm might help repair it.