Lance Corporal Johnathon Gonzalez got a standing ovation when he was introduced at the Geva Theatre. He has been a United States Marine for two years and just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan where he earned a purple heart.
Gonzalez told the audience at Geva's Summer Curtain Call that he couldn't have done it, if it wasn't for Geva, "Skip I thank you for everything that you've done for me, it's because of you that I'm in this uniform," said Lance Corporal Gonzalez to Geva's Director of Education and Artist in Residence, Skip Greer.
Gonzales says he was painfully shy as a student at Rush Henrietta. He joined Geva, at first helping build sets, but later got up the courage to get on stage, "it really gave me the sense of a place to to belong and through that it gave me the confidence to go and do more with my life," said Lance Corporal Gonzalez, "do something that less than one percent of this country does and that's join the best fighting force that the U.S. has to offer."
Johnathon's story serves as a testament to how much of a difference every dollar donated can make in a young person's life. "Ticket sales only cover 60% of the cost of producing theatre, let alone the education programs," said Tom Parrish, Geva Theare's Executive Director, "so we rely on donations from individuals, corporations, and events like this to pay for those programs."
Geva's fundraising goal is $150,000. Parrish says the money will go a long way, "that money helps send 1,600 Rochester City students to the theatre for free every year," explained Parrish, "sends artists into the classrooms, it funds our summer conservatory program, all of our accessibility programs, so it's a really important element to our fundraising." Lance Corporal Gonzalez added, "what theatre offers is that place where you can just go out and be yourself and everybody's so accepting"
The hope is that more students like Lance Corporal Gonzalez will make their dreams a reality on, and off, the stage.
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