Area special-needs children hit the big top

Numerous Henry County children were among those who gathered, recently, to see “The Greatest Show on Earth,” while celebrating the local special-needs community.

Roughly 220 special-needs youngsters and their families were treated to a private, pre-show circus performance Saturday by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. The event, held at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, was sponsored by Gas South, the Metro Atlanta Mayors Association (MAMA), and Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus.

Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart participated in the circus’ Magical Journey program for the third straight year, along with six families from his city, and students from Smith-Barnes and Stockbridge elementary schools. The program is designed to bring the circus to children with special needs.

Stuart said he enjoyed being able to spend time with the group. “These people touch your heart,” said Stuart, one of 16 area mayors who took part in the occasion. “To see the gleam in their eye ... any kind of joy that you can give them is priceless.”

Valarie Amerson, of Stockbridge, brought her children to the circus for the occasion. She said it carried benefits for the children, as well as their parents.

“Parents were able to enjoy this event without worrying about the cost, which would have probably eliminated many people from attending,” said Amerson. “The children were given snack bags, a mohawk souvenir, and slushies. These students did not have to feel ashamed for not having money. It was truly awesome to see the students’ faces light up the entire time at the show.”

The children were able to see animals and acrobats perform, as well as wear clown makeup and costumes. Other area communities which were represented in the program were Acworth, Alpharetta, Auburn, Chamblee, Decatur, Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Lawrenceville, Lithonia, Norcross, Roswell, Sugar Hill, Suwanee and Woodstock.

“Gas South is proud to partner with the MAMA and Feld Entertainment, one of the leading family-entertainment organizations in the world, to bring this Magical Journey to Atlanta children for the third year,” said Kevin Greiner, chief executive officer of Gas South.

“It’s a really nice way for metro Atlanta to come together and celebrate these kids and really put on a show that they’ll never forget,” Greiner continued.

Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson is the MAMA chairman. He said the Magical Journey program brings together hundreds of special families from across the 10-county Atlanta area each year to share an experience at the circus.

“Through collaboration with Gas South and Feld Entertainment, the Magical Journey has helped to bring a smile to the face of thousands in the past three years,” said Johnson.