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Shaw Goes from “Backstage to Backwoods” for TOY

A local man is asking Buffalonians to go from “Backstage to Backwoods” this upcoming spring and donate money as part of a fundraiser for Theatre of Youth (TOY).  Toy’s Head of Design Ken Shaw, along with his dog Gracie, is planning a hike from on the Finger Lakes Trail, from the Catskill Mountains to Allegheny State Park, in order to raise money for the Theatre.

Shaw plans to travel for 50 days as part of this “trip for a cause.”  He and Gracie will set out on May 15th, and hike the 562-mile stretch of trail at a pace of approximately 8 to 18 miles every day. However, Gracie will not accompany Shaw in some sections of the trail deemed to be too dangerous for dogs. Along the way, Shaw will cross a wide variety of terrain, including rivers, mountains, and ravines. This includes a national forest, 41 state forests, four state parks, and three wildlife management areas.

The trip will allow Shaw to experiment with living a primitive life: he will pump and filter his own water and prepare food on a portable stove, sleep in tents and shelters, and dabble in building fires. After his 50 days of life in the wilderness are over, he plans to return home on July 4th.

Why is Shaw doing this? According to Shaw, it’s about helping TOY, an organization that he has been involved with for over a decade. Located in the restored Allendale Theatre in the City of Buffalo, TOY is Buffalo’s only professional theatre company that caters exclusively to young people and their families. However, the idea also came from simply planning something to do over the summer and finding a way to turn it into a good cause.

“It came from a man in his midlife crisis looking for things to do,” Shaw said. “The whole idea started as just how I was going to start my summer vacation.”

Shaw said that Lynn Edelman, a former board president for the Theatre of Youth, previously went on a trip that also turned into a fund-raising opportunity. While Edelman was in that position at the Theatre, she wanted to do something to challenge herself for her 50th birthday. This turned into a bicycle trip that took her from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast, and also collected money that people donated to help the Theatre. Shaw is drawing on Edelman’s example as a way to “follow in those footsteps and turn it into something that would sort of benefit the company, in addition to just being sort of something that I would do for my summer vacation and sort of challenge myself.”

When asked if Shaw had ever done anything like this in the past, he replied that he had, but “not to this extent.” He grew up in Toronto and did a lot of hiking in a local provincial park called Algonquin, and went on week-long trips there. However, the particular challenge of the large distance of the “Backstage to Backwoods” route is monumental.

“I have never, ever, ever done anything this big,” he commented.

Although this hike will cover a long distance, Shaw said that he is no stranger to walking long distances. Since he does not drive, he said that he often walks to get from point A to point B and that walking a lot will not be a huge shock to his body.

“It’s not like I’m suddenly walking these huge distances that I’m not used to walking,” he said.

Consequently, Shaw believes that walking a given number of miles each day will not be the biggest challenge that he will face. Instead, he feels that the day-to-day challenges will be the most trying part of the hike. Although he will not spend every night outdoors in the wilderness and there will be hotels and shelters along the way, he will still be in a strange environment without many of the “creature comforts” of home.

“I’m not as worried about the physical challenges so much as the day-to-day challenges, more just the mechanics of keeping yourself hydrated and healthy and clean,” Shaw commented.

Shaw noted that this trip is not only a personal challenge, but also a way to contribute to a struggling economy and boost decreased funding for the arts in the City of Buffalo. According to Shaw, in order for people from all walks of life to be interested in theatre, money needs to keep coming in to support it. He said that decreased funding is not only a problem in Western New York, but nationally as well. This has bigger implications aside from causing theatres to struggle financially and eventually close down.

“People need to decide if it is important to have cultural opportunities…history is often remembered for the arts that it produces,” Shaw said. “It would be a shame to not continue simply because of the economic crisis that we’re in.”

Shaw emphasized that all of the money will go directly to the Theatre of Youth, and none of it will be used to pay for the cost of the trip. When deciding how to set up donations, Shaw decided that it would be “fun” to set up the payment plans in increments to correspond with the number of miles that he will be traveling:

1 Penny per mile x 562 miles = $5.62
1 Nickel per mile x 562 miles = $28.10
1 Dime per mile x 562 miles = $56.20
1 Quarter per mile x 562 miles = $131.50
50 cents per mile x 562 miles = $281.00
1 Dollar per mile x 562 miles = $562.00

To make a donation, call 716.884.4400 x 304 or send a check or money order, payable to the Theatre of Youth, to the following address:

Theatre of Youth
203 Allen Street
Buffalo, NY 14201

These are only suggested donations, and Shaw emphasized that the Theatre will welcome any amount of money that patrons would wish to donate to this cause. He strongly suggested that in these tough economic times, people should give what they can “manage” and that even the smallest donations will still add up and be able to help.

“A lot of charities have their hands out hoping to stay alive…no one should think that there is such a thing as a donation that is too small,” Shaw concluded.

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