The Calgary Herald
Program reveals there's a little magic in all of us
There's a little bit of magic inside all of us, no matter what cards life has dealt us.
Living proof for this concept exists in Project Magic, a program developed by legendary American magician David Copperfield and promoted in Calgary by Robert Wong.
Wong, 38, has been working with our city's Between Friends Club in recent months, teaching simple magic tricks to the agency's clients.
"It's just a way of giving back to the community. I've never worked with people with disabilities before and it's been very inspiring," said Wong.
"I look at the problems they have to deal with very day and I just feed off their courage when I'm working with them,"
Wong makes his living as a motivational speaker and performer, working the magic that is his passion into his presentations to executives or salespeople to emphasize his points. "The first week at Between Friends, I showed the kids how to do a very simple sleight-of-hand trick called The jumping Rubber Band," recalls Wong.
"It was amazing to see the looks on their faces when they understood how to do it. Project Magic is all about instilling self confidence and boosting self esteem."
Wong notes other therapeutic tools that magic can help develop include gross and fine motor skills, problem solving, concentration, perception and interpersonal skills.
Carrie Talerico, the manager of volunteer services for the Between Friends Club, says the early reviews have been terrific.
"We're all about providing recreation and creating friendships for these young people, who can have any type of disability, or none at all," says Talerico.
"I've never seen such rapt attention in our kids as when Robert worked with them that first night. Some don't normally interact that much, but they were all incredibly into it."
Talerico says programs like Project Magic are all about asset building for young people with challenges.
"This gives our kids a reason to feel special. They now have a skill that some of their peers probably don't have. They were so excited to go home and do their magic trick for their parents and siblings," Talerico says.
Wong has experienced magic's liberating power personally.
"When I was about ii, I saw a magician perform on TV I felt this amazing sense of awe in what he did," says Wong.
"Growing up as a visible minority, I had some issues of low self-esteem. Magic really helped bring me out of my shell."
Wong has worked in sales, on a cruise ship, as a disk jockey and as an aerobics instructor en route to his present career.
"You don't have to be a magician to share your skills with other people in society. For me, a lot changed when I had children (he's dad to a two and a four-year old). I found that as I became a better, caring person, I also became a better performer," says Wong.
"Sure you have to make a living, but you also adjust your priorities to what's really important, to giving back to your community. As long as I have the time, and I'll make the time, I want to be involved in Project Magic," says Wong.
Talerico says Between Friends would love to incorporate Project Magic as a year-round, permanent option for its members.
"We have dozens of programs ranging from swimming and bowling to cooking. I'd love to see a magic show put on by our members for their friends and their families not too far down the road," she says.