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martinjmac497
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I have been in the military for about 10 years now and would like to start volunteering at the local VA hospitals wherever I am at throughout the country. I was looking for advice on what tricks are best suited for a hospital setting and that are geared towards the adult audience since I will be going to a VA not a children's hospital. After identifying what routines I will use I am then going to adjust the props and patter to fit the military lifestyle and tell some jokes the that only military personnel would understand.
Theodore Lawton
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Great choice to visit the vets!

I volunteer at my local VA and here's some things I can share with you:

1. Just do entertaining magic. Most guys just want to be entertained and have their mind taken off of their problems for a while- it doesn't have to be patter that's related to military lifestyle. In fact, some of the guys would prefer to have their thoughts taken off of the military lifestyle. Not saying you can't do it, just something to consider.

2. Be prepared to listen. Some of the guys, while enjoying the magic, really are lonely and just want to talk to someone. The extra few minutes you spend chatting can mean far more to them than the magic. Some people also have mental issues that you will learn to recognize as you listen and just be there for them.

3. Be prepared to be told no thanks. Some people will not want to see your magic. Smile and tell them thank you for their service, have a good day and move on.

4. Know what hours are best for where you will be volunteering. Some guys are tired when their ward gets done with rehab, some go to sleep early, etc. I usually only spend an hour at the hospital when I go because that is the window when most guys are up. They have gotten back from lunch and rehab and haven't crashed out yet.

As far as tricks go- try to stick with stuff that only you will handle so you don't have to disinfect everything between rooms. No sponge magic. If you have dry hands, keep it in mind if you plan to do any card work because you will have to use sanitizer after going into each and every room.

You will probably only be performing for the more healthy people so some patient contact with your props is okay as long as it's limited and not a sponge or cloth or something that makes it super easy to carry germs around. Things like Crazy Cube are easily disinfected and are still good, strong magic.

I have a little fold up table I take sometimes if I know I will need it. Don't count on using their table as it will be crowded with medicines, water cups, food and so forth.

I like things like mini chop cup, cut and restored rope, Hopping halves- with a patter that doesn't make people look stupid- I'm the buffoon that doesn't know what's going on, card warp, contact colors by Aldo Colombini, Ambitious Card because they get to keep the signed card as a keepsake. Ring and rope routines. Basically anything visual and easy to follow. Show your best stuff and remember it's all about them and they will appreciate you. And again- tell them thank you for their service!
Magic is the bacon in the breakfast of life.

............................................

God bless you and have a magical day
martinjmac497
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Ted,
Great write up! I totally understand what you are talking about in reference to "military patter". Now that I think about it, it's probably best just to leave it out since you don't know how each individual will react. I appreciate all of the tips!
Theodore Lawton
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You're welcome!

Let us know how it goes. Smile
Magic is the bacon in the breakfast of life.

............................................

God bless you and have a magical day
MAV
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In a few months I too will be spending time entertaining at my local VA hospital.

My experience in entertaining children, is that I like to leave them with something. For the past several years I have made them a bead dog for my last trick. I have them help me cut the tail from the string of beads and I palm a squeaker so it makes a little noise when I clip the tail. That brings a big surprised look on their faces. I call the little dog Tricksy because I show how it is trained to Stay, Sit and Play dead. Those kids love keeping those little dogs and my cost comes out to only about 7 cents each.

Now....my Question to you Theodore: When entertaining a Vet, I am thinking about teaching or leaving them an easy trick they can perform for the nurses, doctors or family. Does this make sense?? If so, do you have any ideas??
Theodore Lawton
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MAV- I have no idea.

Maybe you could check out the Betchas section and teach them something fun from there.

In my experience, none of the vets would be interested in learning a trick. Most of them are tired, recovering from injuries and some are a little depressed. They are just grateful to have someone there that cares enough to tell them thank you and show them a few minutes of entertainment. Me personally- I would never consider showing them how to do a trick and this mainly has to do with time- I'm only with the guys who are willing to watch for a few minutes and don't want to eat into that with instruction.

Then you have the fact that different guys have different mobility concerns. Some use walkers, some are wheelchair bound, so teaching them a trick can be difficult in regards to just how much they are able to use their limbs.

When I finally start the children's hospital after the 1st I'll have giveaways for them and will teach some of them the disappearing pencil trick. Kids ALWAYS want to learn tricks and this will empower them to be able to DO something from their helpless situation. Maybe this would be an option for some of your spectators. You tell someone to watch the pencil in your hand very closely because when you tap it 3 times with this other pencil, it will disappear. I have a little routine I do where I tell them to watch close and make sure I don't toss it away and I do a toss vanish where it looks like it just disappears into thin air. Then I "pull" it out of my nose. "Ew!" say most kids Smile Then I take a moment to wipe off the "snotty" pencil with my silk hanky. Of course, now my hanky is nasty so I vanish that. Then bring it back- maybe from their ear- kids love that Smile I explain that my hanky is now clean after being disintegrated and put it back in my pocket and finally do the vanishing pencil gag. It's an easy trick that amazes people when they first see it and is easy to teach- although it's also hilarious to watch kids try and do it because they don't have the practice put into it to make it a smooth trick yet and they are ADORABLE to watch.

It's an old gag- you reinforce to them to watch the pencil in your hand again- that the one you tap it with will make it disappear when you tap it three times. When you explain this you slowly bring the pencil up next to your head and down 3 times onto the "vanishing" pencil. This conditions them for what you will be doing and gets them used to having the "wand" pencil by your head. Then when you do it for real you turn your head slightly away from them and count 1, 2, put the wand pencil behind your ear, and on 3 you bring your hand down empty. I open my hand wide in surprise and turn it about looking amazed myself. The wrong pencil vanished! This stuns people. Then you turn to look at them and they see it behind your ear and get a laugh. I teach this because it is obvious how you do it, stuns people enough to be a cool trick and can be done with any pencils, pens, crayons, etc. that a child may have. Since it's so obvious how you do it I also don't see anything wrong with sharing it here.

It works well for me too because I have Stoplight Cards and the "vanishing" pencil matches the shimmery green disc on the card perfectly so the concept of making it "go" flows well together.
Magic is the bacon in the breakfast of life.

............................................

God bless you and have a magical day
MAV
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I do appreciate you demonstrating the difference I will see from entertaining children to adult vets. I truly appreciate your input and I agree with you. I like your disappearing pencil routine and there may be a place for it in my performance.

As for the children, I try to make adaptions to the patter for girls as well as boys. I will also change out some of the effects. For instance, I developed some patter for the girls involving a story around a princess who had all the gems in the kingdom but did not have any diamonds. I then bring out the Hotrod gimmick and tell the story from there. I am making my own version of the Hotrod that will match the patter. I purchased colored gems from Swarovsky and a square wooden stick from Hobby Lobby. I will be putting six different colored gems on one side and all diamonds on the other. This is a slight change from the standard Hotrod available for purchase.

I have fun making some magic items and am anxious to finish this one and use it.

Thank you for your valuable input!! Much appreciated!!
mndude
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So how does this VA volunteering routine typically go? Do they bring everyone in a big room, or do you go room to room?
Theodore Lawton
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It is usually room to room. There was a "fun day" also where I set up in the dining room and they had music and other games and snacks and whoever wanted to see magic would stop at my table.
Magic is the bacon in the breakfast of life.

............................................

God bless you and have a magical day
Dick Oslund
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Where I go, they usually assemble in the dining room--often immediately after lunch. It's like doing a parlor show, except most will be in wheel chairs.

Don't drag in FOO CANS, CHANGE BAGS or similar props. Effects with cards, rope, silks (yes) --color change thru hand, sucker silk to egg, etc. linking rings, the 6 spot 3 spot 4 spot, 9spot card etc. will play well.

Ask before the show about audience participation.

As noted abovr, these men are in a re-hab situation The like being entertained. I do not recommend teaching them a trick.
Theodore Lawton has covered the real work very well.
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
Theodore Lawton
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Thanks Dick! That means a lot coming from you. Everyone speaks very highly of you around here.
Magic is the bacon in the breakfast of life.

............................................

God bless you and have a magical day
thementalcoach
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Quote:
On 2013-12-27 22:57, Theodore Lawton wrote:
...I volunteer at my local VA and here's some things I can share with you...

I suggest you reread what Theodore wrote (it's the second post of this thread) - he has great tips!

I'd like to add a few things to what he said, from both my former Navy Hospital Corpsman perspective and my currently working with combat veterans with chronic pain from injuries and post-traumatic stress (that's my public service - I do it for no charge).

1) Read again what Theodore said about listening - lots of these veterans have no one to talk to. Don't offer advice, just use active listening skills. There's a difference between sympathy and empathy - you'll probably find that empathy is more productive.

2) It's not personal! Combat-wounded often results in lots of emotions that can spill out (or explode) with seemingly zero provocation. While it can be tough to stay neutral if someone starts yelling, cursing, crying, etc. - give yourself a reality check and remember it's not about you, these guys have often had horrid experiences. A smile and a kind word can do wonders.

3) About thanking them for their service - I pretty much do this everywhere when I'm out and about and I see someone wearing an armed forces cap, T-shirt, etc. I ask them if they served, what they did (i.e. what was their job) and I ALWAYS thank them for their service. In my opinion veterans can never get too much appreciation, sometimes they gave up a lot and they should be thanked for it.

Volunteering at a VA hospital to give the gift of humor, distraction, communication and appreciation is a GREAT thing to do and a HUGE thanks to those of you who do it!

David
David Kenward - The Mental Coach
Solving problems with the Mental Game
Sports, Business, Creative and Performing Arts
Interests - Magic, Mentalism and the Bizarre
Sacramento, California
http://thementalcoach.com
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