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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Exchanging joy for joy
By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 28, 2007
Yaneisy Padrino, 10, left, Stephanie Gallego, 10, and Yomely Feliciano, 11, check out Santa Claus' beard after the 19th Annual Children's Holiday Concerts at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
[Kathleen Flynn | Times]
[Kathleen Flynn | Times]
Jasmine McWhite, 9, a fourth-grader at Thonotosassa Elementary, said her favorite part of the program was singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
The annual Steinbrenner Family Children's Holiday Concert enchants its audience and its participants.
Like a magical spell, you cannot resist its lure.
The ingredients for the show are brilliant in their simplicity: take a group of young students, some of whom have never heard the Florida Orchestra or been to Carol Morsani Hall, and immerse them in performances wrapped in holiday cheer. Then marvel as the kids applaud every effort and clap along with every song, as they did Tuesday.
For Dr. Karla Ledoux-Coton, the students' enthusiasm blurs the number of years she has donned her ballet slippers and danced a selection from the Nutcracker Suite. At first, she guesses it's her fourth or fifth year in the show. A friend gently reminds her it's her eighth.
Ask other regulars like WTVT-Ch. 13 anchor John Wilson, his wife Mary K., or wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage, and you're apt to get similar answers. The show enthralls the kids, and in turn they enthrall the participants.
The kids charm everyone in the house, never missing a beat on the pa rum pum pum pum of Little Drummer Boy, or staring in amazement as Ledoux-Coton daintily bounces across the stage to the Sugar Plum Fairy.
"I love it, I'm honored to be here," said Ledoux-Coton, who regularly performs with Ballet Theatre International. "I feel God has blessed me with a gift and I like to share it."
Ledoux-Coton's participation always impresses me. She literally has to stay on her toes to balance her performances with her job as a neurologist. Even Tuesday, she had to leave right after the show to make her rounds.
At 45 (she looks 28), no one could blame the good doctor if she hung up the slippers. The truth is she's not ready.
"No, I'm not," Ledoux-Coton said. "I'm definitely one of the older dancers but, no, I don't feel I'm ready.
"Ballet is my passion, and I've managed to kind of combine my worlds, if you will; my passion for ballet and neurology. I do this every year, and I do patient programs where I dance for my patients."
The students walk away with so many positive messages - not to mention a duffel bag of free goodies provided by the Steinbrenner family and the New York Yankees. Certainly, they leave with a greater appreciation of the arts, but they also learn about the dedication required to succeed as an artist and in life.
That's what Ledoux-Coton embodies. In fact, she says her example encourages other young artists to extend themselves beyond the stage.
"I've had young dancers be inspired to want to go into medicine or continue their art along with their education," Ledoux-Coton said. "It is possible to continue both your artistic passions and achieve your educational aspirations."
Ledoux-Coton continues her passion Dec. 3 at the Pinellas version of the annual concert in Ruth Eckerd Hall. I'm willing to wager only the wide-eyed glee of the kids will match Ledoux-Coton's enthusiasm.