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Fort Wayne fire spinners join circus to entertain refugee children in Thailand

Friday, November 30, 2012 - 7:03 am

Have you ever wanted to join a circus? Lauren Tourkow, 26, and Brent Helmkamp, 28, have done just that.

The Fort Wayne natives specialize in fiery acts; that is, they use fire in their performances. Helmkamp is a fire spinner. Using a length of heavy metal chain with a fuse attached to one end he twirls the chain through various maneuvers. Tourkow uses metal rings for her act. Fuses are attached at intervals around the rings, at about a four-inch height.

Last year the two were at a Fire Festival workshop when they heard about the Spark Circus. The nonprofit, all-volunteer organization takes circus acts to the children in refugee camps along the Thailand/Burma borders. According to the organization's website, sparkcircus.org: “This project is designed to develop their creativity, physical fitness, communication skills, teamwork, confidence and cultural awareness. Play is a fundamental part of children's development, and we bring a big spark of happiness, love, amusement and entertainment into these children's lives and the lives of those who work with them in the camps and orphanages."

The couple decided to apply and recently found out they are two of 20 performers who were chosen from around the world to take part in this year's tour. They are now raising money to donate to the organization.

The money is used to buy circus toys and art supplies that are made into kits and given to each group they perform for. The Spark Circus doesn't just perform, they also hold workshops teaching the kids how to do some of the circus tricks. The kits allow the kids to keep up their newly learned skills once the circus moves on.

The couple will pay for their own food and travel expenses. All money raised will go directly to the ringmaster of Spark Circus.

They will leave the country Dec 30. From Jan. 5 to Feb. 22, they will be in Thailand. Besides performing in the Maist area they will travel around the country, performing at schools, hospitals and migrant camps.So far they have raised $200 of the $1,000 they need to go.

A fundraiser 6-9 p.m. Dec. 7 at Deer Park Tavern will help them raise the rest. There will be music by Scratch and Sniff. Tourkow and Helmkamp will perform, as will Pyroscope entertainment. There will be a silent auction of local artwork. Donations will be taken at the door. For $5, there will be Burmese egg roll, samosas and tea for sale, and for the more daring, a Thai beer called Singha. Big John's Ragin' Cajun Food Truck will also be there.

For more information about Spark Circus, go to sparkcircus.org.