It all started with a dream to help critically ill children in London’s Royal Marsden Hospital. With the intent of giving service in a way that could make a real difference, 50 young LDS teens from the Staines England Stake set out on an incredible service project that resulted in what some called a miracle.
They planned and produced an evening of entertainment, the “MGM Spectacular.” The initials stand for Marsden’s Glorious Musical. The miraculous part of the project was the fact that in addition to raising money for the hospital, the LDS teens helped the young patients participate and perform in the production. For many of these children, this theatrical experience was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Sarah Burlinson of the Tunbridge Wells Ward, Kent England Stake, said, “The children really looked happy, and I know that they enjoyed it as well.”
The show was intended as a family event. Besides the LDS youth, the critically ill outpatients and their brothers and sisters performed in song and dance. The LDS teens wanted to offer these children a chance to forget their difficulties for a day and feel the joy of being involved in service. The money raised was used to buy needed equipment for their own hospital. And they threw themselves into the project with energy. Catherine Wittle of the Guilford Ward said, “The sick kids were a great example to us. They were so determined to do well.”
The combination of dedicated LDS youth with enthusiastic children made for a remarkable evening. The project was linked with a charity called Kids Count. The group also received help from London’s Capital Radio.
But the performance was preceded by 18 months of hard work. To earn the money necessary to hire the hall, create the costumes, and print the tickets and programmes, the stake youth held car washes, sponsored hikes and bake sales, and held a summer festival. At times it was discouraging, especially after well-made plans fell through, but then the phrase, “The show must go on,” was heard around the stake.
Everyone understood that the proceeds of this show were to serve an important purpose. “The show was a lot of fun to put together and perform,” said Alison Youngberg of the Addlestone Branch, “but the best part was knowing that we were raising money that would save the children’s lives.”
On the night of the performance, the show was a great success. The near-capacity audience was thoroughly entertained. Standing on stage that evening, Amber Travers of the Kingston Ward said, “When we all sang the closing song on stage, there was a really good feeling, a feeling of total unity and friendliness.”
A cheque for nearly £2000 (about $3,214) was donated. Beth Sepion, representing the hospital, said that the show was the most touching and innovative way she had ever seen to raise money. For the Staines Stake youth, it was a chance to learn how much fun service can be and how great things can come from that which is small.