Giving City

Drama troupe serves youth and community.

A Revival of HOPE

Abused children and others at risk of abuse may find hope, help and understanding in this year’s revival of the HOPE Drama Troupe. HOPE—the letters stand for Healing Our Personal Experiences—can trace its heritage a quarter-century, to the emotional toll of the floods of 1993. At that time, stress increased within affected families. So did incidents of abuse. 

So the Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC) approached actor and theater teacher T Valada-Viars, who then founded HOPE Drama Troupe to help give children a voice, to educate their peers about abuse, and to encourage victims to get help. 

In subsequent years, HOPE taught thousands to understand different kinds of abuse and that “some secrets are good to tell,” which became a mantra of the program.

An overhaul of staffing and administration in 2012 shifted the program from Des Moines’ Central Campus to East High School, where HOPE activities diminished and the program eventually stopped. 

CAPC voted to disband and gave rights for the HOPE brand to David Van Cleave, artistic director of Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre (DMYAT). He had been a multiyear participant in HOPE and was motivated to rekindle the benefits and support that HOPE delivered.

A committee of HOPE alumni has restarted the program, Van Cleave says. These alumni include teachers and school board members, theater and film professionals, and doctors.

DMYAT is providing HOPE’s primary funding for the current school year. 

Van Cleave relaunched the program, he says, “because abuse happens—because five children die every day in America because of abuse and neglect. HOPE was a life-changing experience for me. I think DMYAT has a responsibility to provide an opportunity like this to our artists.” 

With professional directors and counselors, the program is once again organizing troupes of about 20 students from grades 8 through 12 to write and perform a short play appropriate for middle and high school students, as well as for adult audiences. The troupe will begin presenting performances in Central Iowa schools in December. Counselors will be present at each performance, available to speak privately to students affected by the show.

This format, which Valada-Viars developed with Tim Wisgerhof, proved successful. Post-performance evaluations included gratifying stories about otherwise silent students seeking help. Successive directors—Tom Perrine, Kim Van Haecke and Joanne Wilson—continued this strategy. All had backgrounds in theater, improvisation and community service. 

What made HOPE so successful, according to Van Haecke, was a simple formula, one the current program is emulating. “The students all contributed to the script and each year the script was different,” she says. “It also ensured that the script written by kids for kids was talking right at their level.”



Bidwell Riverside Center
Empty Bowls
When: Nov. 1, 6 p.m.
Where: Temple for Performing Arts
Details: Hors d’oeuvres, a plated dinner and dessert. Proceeds benefit the center’s mission to increase families’ stability and self-sufficiency. $50, or $450 for a table of 10; 

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Corks & Kegs
When: Nov. 2, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Des Moines University Details: Featuring Des Moines wine, beer and food vendors in addition to silent and live auctions and live music. $90, or $150 for VIP; 

Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa
An Evening in Tuscany
When: Nov. 8, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Des Moines Embassy Club
Details: A multi-course dinner featuring cuisine prepared by chefs from the Tuscan region of Italy. The event also showcases Tuscan wine and includes a raffle. $180, or $1,600 for a table of 10; 

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
Champagne and Chocolate
When: Nov. 16, 6 p.m.
Where: Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
Details: Holiday exhibition and cocktail party with live music and a buffet of chocolate bites. $90 for members, $100 for nonmembers, or $60 for young professionals; 

Blank Children’s Hospital 
Festival of Trees & Lights Gala
When: Nov: 20, 6 p.m.
Where: Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center
Details: Cocktails, dinner, entertainment, and silent and live auctions. $235, or $125 for young professionals, or $2,100 for a table of 10; 

The gala will be followed by the Festival of Trees and Lights Nov. 21-25 (hours vary), with decorated trees, entertainment, children’s activities, food and shopping. $5, free for age 2 and under.

Make-A-Wish Foundation Jolly Holiday Lights
When: Nov. 23-Dec. 29, 5-10 p.m.
Where: Adventureland
Details: A 2.5-mile drive through a display of holiday lights. $20 per car, or $40 per limo/bus; 

Salisbury House & Gardens Holly & Ivy Home Tour
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Salisbury House
Details: Showcasing the Salisbury House decorated for the holidays by local interior designers, florists and home stores. The tour also includes four privately owned homes, two different homes each day of the event.$18 for members, $20 for nonmembers for a one-day ticket; $31.50 for members, $35 for nonmembers for a two-day ticket; 

Des Moines European Association Christkindlmarket
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 11 a.m. (ending times vary)
Where: Cowles Commons
Details: German-inspired Christmas market with vendors and entertainment. Free admission; 


Young Women’s Resource Center 
Chrysalis Foundation 40/30 Celebration
When: Dec. 8, 2 p.m.
Where: Adventureland Palace Theater
Details: Celebrates the finale of the YWRC’s 40th anniversary year and the launch of the Chrysalis Foundation’s 30th anniversary year. Keynote address by Erin Vilardi, founder and CEO of VoteRunLead, followed by a reception with hors d’oeuvres. $50, free for children under age 12;;

Celebrate Iowa Gala
When: Dec. 14, 7 p.m.
Where: State Historical Building
Details: Entertainment from Iowa musicians, plus food, desserts, wine and signature cocktails from across the state. $100, or $75 for young professionals;

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