By Jennifer Dempsey Last month, 14 members of Northern Ireland’s Circus WAVE became part of the Salida Circus family in Chaffee County, Colorado. For two weeks, Circus WAVE members stayed with host families and joined in a circus schedule that included stiltwalking in the July 4th parade, community potlucks dinners, a sold-out show in downtown Salida, camping, hiking, hot springs and a guest appearance at the Colorado Irish Festival in Denver. “It was the most exhausting and exhilarating two weeks of my life,” said Leslie Garrity, a Salida Circus parent and host mother to two teenage girls from Ballymoney. Circus WAVE stems from the WAVE Trauma Centre, a bereavement and counseling service founded in 1991 that works with all persons in Northern Ireland who have been deeply affected by the Troubles (ethno-political conflict). Circus WAVE was started in 1999 as a personal development and confidence-building tool for the young people of WAVE. “Being a youth worker for WAVE Trauma Centre, I have gotten to know some amazing kids, but kids with very low self-confidence,” said Darren Gribben, a WAVE Youth leader. “When the Colorado trip came along and working with the Salida Circus and the American kids, the WAVE youth suddenly sprang to life and found confidence they never knew they had. I hope that one day this will lead to bigger challenges. All being well, we will return to Colorado to see the new best friends we have made and show off some new circus tricks.” Salida resident Marsha Sherry watched the show created by Salida Circus and Circus WAVE. “Having fun and expressing creativity are primordial and universal,” she said. “Doing it together creates self-esteem and deep bonds that unite our souls and transcend intellectual concepts. My husband and I were enriched and blessed to witness the circus show.” Former Chaffee County AARP president Jerry Knowles said, “As a former administrator on the Apache reservation, it was so fulfilling to see how creative experiences can help kids grow and become self-confidence and optimistic. It was really a celebration of the human spirit to see these young people rise above the bitterness of their pasts and not stay down because of the throes of life. That made my heart go out to them.” Tricia Magee, director of WAVE Youth said, “This trip has had the most amazing outcomes for every single member of our group and for that I can’t thank the Salida Circus families enough. I am in no doubt that this experience will continue to have an impact for years to come.” Circus WAVE’s trip to Salida was made possible by generous donations from the Celtic Connection, Colorado Irish Festival, DC Friends of Ireland and the Law Offices of Rebecca Adelman. For more information about the WAVE Trauma Centre, go to For more information about the Salida Circus go to

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