“Virtual Variety Show Collage”

Pictured are all of the participants in the compiled video. Mandi Jackson, top, right, is the coordinator for the virtual variety show program.

When Prosper resident Mandi Jackson first heard about the spread of the novel coronavirus and the extreme social distancing measures being put into place around the United States in March, she felt compelled to do something to help someone in need. 

Almost immediately her thoughts went to some of the individuals who would feel the loss of connection to others most deeply: residents of assisted living and other care centers.

“During this uncertain time, my family's heart has naturally been out to the over-65 community that is at risk,” Jackson said. But due to COVID-19 restrictions that currently prevent family members, friends, and volunteers from visiting care center residents, she needed a unique way to reach out to them.

It was in speaking of these issues with a friend that the idea of a virtual variety show was born. 

“I am surrounded by so many talented, amazing people,” Jackson said. 

She asked members of her local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use their capacities and connect to care center residents “virtually,” blessing their lives without visiting them physically.

While families were preparing their submissions for the show, Jackson spoke with care center representatives in Collin and Denton counties about the idea. Many were very excited and some even got emotional to know that someone was still thinking about them, she said.

virtual variety show

Residents at Beehive Homes of Frisco enjoy the virtual variety show. 

Another piece of the puzzle was to compile the 32 video submissions into a finished program. For that, Jackson enlisted the help of a friend and member of a neighboring congregation of the Church: Allison Vance, video production and broadcast journalism teacher at Rogers Middle School.

Vance said, “I thought it was such a sweet way to give back to the community and let these seniors know that we’re thinking of and supporting them.” 

She set to work, juggling her new e-learning schedule with her students to find time to create the final product, including some back and forth editing of various drafts. Regarding her hours dedicated to the project, “It felt like so much less,” Vance said. Her contribution also blessed her life, she says, because she was able to do something she enjoys, learn new production processes, and use effects to “enhance the performances of these sweet adults, children and families who shared their talents.”

The variety show project partially inspired her to work with her broadcast journalism students on a project of their own: a “Good News” broadcast that she says they will be “sharing with our Rogers School to help uplift students stuck more than six feet away from their friends.

“Part of what we do in Prosper ISD is give back to the community,” Vance said, “and I feel I have (been able to do that) as a PISD teacher; the broadcast students are now working to give back as well.”

Jackson’s interaction with the assisted living representatives motivated yet another project for members of the Church congregation: sewing nearly 250 face masks for the staff of Victoria Gardens of Allen and Settlers Ridge in Celina, both skilled nursing facilities. Some members had already been busy donating their time and expertise to mask-making efforts throughout the Metroplex, so the gap in staff supplies was filled quickly.

Ashley Schroeder, a classically trained violinist and participant in the virtual variety show, talked about her gratitude for the opportunity to serve.

“As parents, we deliberately take opportunities to teach our children that every blessing and talent we have is a gift from the Lord … our children have grown to love serving others through music.” She continued, “The virus has caused a lot of hardship and frustration, but it has also brought families and communities together. People are looking outside themselves seeking for ways to serve and bless the lives of others. I know that this will be a very memorable and influential time in our children’s lives [as we] fill some of those memories with service and love.”

The program has already been distributed to 10 care centers in the area. 

“We will keep reaching out to centers and are happy to send them to anyone that is interested in it,” Jackson said. Staff have reported that the seniors are entranced by the show and “altogether they’ve been very entertained.”

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