GREAT FALLS — The Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind in Great Falls is raising money for a new stage that they can use for graduations and performances.
The current stage is over 40 years old and showing its age. Students in wheelchairs are unable to use the stage, meaning they have to be in front of it during performances.
“All of our stages here are portable stages, so they’re not built in stages that just stay there,” Paul Furthmyre, Superintendent at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind said, “And the current stage that we have is very old, about 40, 50 years old, nobody seems to really know.”
One student who has been spearheading this fundraiser is Gracie. Gracie is 12 years old, and can only see light, shadows, and certain colors. She also has low bone density, requiring her to use a walker or wheelchair to get around. This means that she cannot use the stage they have.
“At graduation, they might have kids in wheelchairs, like they did last year,” Gracie said, “They can’t take them up onto the stage like some other kids.”
While you might think that being in front of the stage is better, Gracie wants to be a part of performances with her classmates, not separated.
“It’d be fun to perform on it,” Gracie said, “They just call the floor in front of it a stage, too.”
Unfortunately, buying a portable stage with complete accessibility, including ADA rails and a wheelchair-designated area, is not a cheap endeavor. The school is trying to raise $85,000. Currently, they have about $55,000 to go, and are asking for help from the community. To learn more about the donation process, you can contact the school or a MSDB board member, or you can attend one of the school’s upcoming performances.
“[The Christmas Performance] includes all of our students here,” Furthmyre said, “From our deaf and hard of hearing department… visually impaired department, from our kids that are in preschool to the kids in high school.”
It is performances like these where Gracie wishes she could (literally) be on the same level as her peers.
“It’d be really cool if … visually impaired performers, and EOS could be up on the stage together,” Gracie said.
The Expressions of Silence Christmas Performance is on Sunday, December 17th, 2023 at 1:00P.M. in the Mustang Center, at 3911 Central Avenue.
The MSDB Winter Program “Poetry Presents” is on Thursday, December 21st at 1:00P.M. in the Mustang Center.
For more information you can call the school at 406-771-6143.