PEPPERELL -- Helping to keep a local tradition alive, a group of young people gathered at the town's VFW Post to express their appreciation for veterans the best way they could, through their individual talents for song and dance.
Held March 2, the Valentine for a Veteran talent show almost did not happen when not enough people had signed up to perform.
Enter Megan Kangas and her mother Peggy.
Undaunted, the two were determined to put on a show and were invited to hold it at the same time as a planned veterans' breakfast to be held at the VFW.
"We were the ones who started the monthly breakfasts," said Lorri Guarnieri of herself and selectman and chairman of the Pepperell Army Community Covenant Stephen Themelis, organizers for the monthly veterans' breakfasts held at the post. "We just thought it was wrong for Megan's talent show not to happen and that we needed to find a place where it could be held. And when we were at a meeting for the breakfast, I thought of moving the show to the monthly breakfast and it worked out very well."
"It was my mom who talked to Mrs. Guarnieri and she told my mom about the breakfast," revealed Megan. "And then my mom talked to Mr. Stephen Themelis. It was a very cool experience."
The venue turned out to be perfect as Megan gathered a strong line up of talent including dancers from Chelmsford's Academy of Performing Arts New England run by Katie Correia and Bryan Steele.
Studio dancers included:
Also among the performers were singers Lillie Ellars (who sang the Star Spangled Banner while Megan Kangas signed using ASL sign language!), Casalyn Gamble, Ashley Cauvel, Jasmine Martens, and Wendy Cummings (the one adult performer, otherwise, all the others were between the ages of 10-18).
"I had always wanted to do something for the veterans," said Megan of her reasons for putting on the show in the first place. "I really appreciate everything they have done for us."
"It was wonderful!" said Guarnieri of the show. "It was incredible! I heard many wonderful comments from the veterans afterwards. I think the thing that jumped out at me most was that the performers were all young people doing this wonderful thing for veterans of all ages from the 1920s to the 1970s and 1980s. The veterans had given the youngsters this gift of living in this country and they were giving back. Gratitude has no age limit."
"I think it went great," enthused Megan, a junior in high school. "The acts were amazing and it was a job well done. I hope the audience enjoyed the show. It was a great experience and I want to thank everyone who helped me with it."
"I would hope that Megan would want to do it again because it was a very big success," encouraged Guarnieri.
"Stephen Themelis was really pleased about the show and said it went very well," reported Peggy Kangas. "We have been invited back. I think this would be a great venue for lots of different entertainment ideas. Maybe different groups from the schools could perform in the future."
"I was there for the whole event," said Themelis. "I thought the children did an excellent show. They showed heart, courage, and patriotic spirit. The crowd had about 100 people, twice what we usually get at the breakfasts and they stayed for the whole event!"
With everyone else seemingly on board to make the talent show a regular thing, would its organizer agree?
"I would definitely do it again," said Megan enthusiastically. "It was a very humbling experience and I hope all the veterans enjoyed it."