Juggling club holds exhibition in Sewickley

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Children spinning brightly colored plates, a clown walking on stilts and a cup stacking competition among Jugglebugs were among the highlights of family juggling night sponsored last Thursday by the Quaker Valley Middle School Juggling Club,

The first hour of evening gave the Jugglebugs — club members — a chance to show their skills and share what they’d been learning in the club as visitors roamed the middle school hallways, visiting club displays and trying out some of the Jugglebugs’ specialties. The second hour featured a competition among the Jugglebugs in cup stacking and partner juggling.

At the spinning plates station, kids of all ages tried their hands at spinning brightly-colored plates on top of thin poles. Some were able to toss a spinning plate into the air and then catch the plate back on the pole. Jason Clark, 7, wore a red clown nose while he practiced the spinning plates while his sister, Miranda, 12, practices nearby.

Club member Ben Farnan, 12, dressed as a clown and roamed the hallways on top of very high stilts. “It’s fun,” he said. “I get to do all kinds of things in the Juggling Club.”

Alongside him was fellow member and clown Matthew Von Kaenel, also 12, who said that learning to walk on stilts was not as hard as it looks. “At first you walk slowly. You start small and get bigger.”

There was a yo-yo station, a rings and clubs station, a face-painting station, a stacking cups station, and a cigar box station, where cigar boxes in royal blue, crimson red, and neon yellow sat waiting to be flipped through the air.

At the Diablo Station, Bradley Fadeley, 12, stood with a look of concentration on his face as he flipped devil sticks in front of him. He said that this activity — his favorite — took him more than a year to learn. He held one stick in each hand to juggle a third stick,

A little farther down the hall, 16-year old club member Bo Lendhart was swinging poi balls through the air. He said that the poi balls he was using were called “sock poi.” They resembled long, stretchy socks with tennis-sized, weighted balls at the bottom. He swiveled and spun them through the air all around his body.

Even though Bo seemed deft enough with the poi balls, he didn’t take part in the competition later that night. “I don’t like competing or performing,” he said. “I just have fun with these.”

The club wouldn’t have gotten its start without Jonathan Truchan, a middle school teacher who is the club's advisor. Mr. Truchan, who learned to juggle from a neighbor, spent some time teaching American students on a Turkish military base. He said that while teaching in Turkey, he missed juggling and thought of the idea to start a juggling club. He had 25 students between grades 7 and 12 in his first club.

Mr. Truchan started the middle school juggling club in 1998 with 25 members. It has grown to more than 100 members.

Members can learn how to paint clown faces, create balloon animals, and juggle scarves, clubs, devil sticks, and eurorings. They can ride unicycles, walk on stilts, jump on pogo sticks, maneuver hacky sacks, whirl hula hoops, and balance spinning plates.

The club meetings are Thursdays. There are 15 students who come from the high school on a bus each week to serve as mentors.

The club has “always been free and always will be, thanks to the generosity of the community,” Mr. Truchan said. They hold a car wash fundraiser every fall and every spring in the parking lot of the school. They also have a store that helps to raise money, and Mr. Truchan added that the parents of the Juggling Club members help out quite a bit.

Mr. Truchan said the club goals are to teach juggling, help kids improve with their juggling, and to share what they’ve learned with the public.

“It’s our way of saying thank you to the community,” he said.

Shellie Petri Budzeak, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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