Local magician pays tribute to grandfather with ALS fundraiser

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published May 7, 2014

 Magician Dale Kirsch and his assistant, Sabrina Fiacco, rehearse for Kirsch’s upcoming “Beyond Reality” magic show, a fundraiser for ALS of Michigan at the Music Stadium in Macomb Township on May 17.

Magician Dale Kirsch and his assistant, Sabrina Fiacco, rehearse for Kirsch’s upcoming “Beyond Reality” magic show, a fundraiser for ALS of Michigan at the Music Stadium in Macomb Township on May 17.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Dale Kirsch believes that magic can be used for more than just entertainment, and for the last three years, he has proven how much good a little trickery can do.

Kirsch, 31, of Clinton Township, has been practicing his craft for 17 years and recently has used his talent for a cause very near and dear to his heart. On May 17, Kirsch will host his third annual “Beyond Reality” magic show in Macomb Township, a fundraiser for ALS of Michigan that he created in honor of his late grandfather.

The show will be held at the Music Stadium Center for Fine Arts and Creative Studies, located at 16804 21 Mile Road, near the southeast corner of 21 Mile and Garfield roads. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the show will begin at 7 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $8 per adult and $5 per child. All proceeds will directly benefit the programs and services of ALS of Michigan.

“This is a way for me to do something fun while helping other people at the same time,” Kirsch explained. “When I became really passionate about magic and started doing shows on a regular basis, I originally wanted to do it full-time. But I quickly realized that I’m not a businessman, so I just decided to keep it as something that I do for fun and for charity.”

ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — affects more than 30,000 people across the U.S. today. In Michigan alone, more than 1,200 people are currently battling the disease. ALS attacks the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord that control a person’s ability to move, speak, swallow and breathe, while their mind stays fully aware. ALS of Michigan is a nonprofit organization that provides free services, education and support to people with ALS, as well as their families and caregivers, and helps fund research to discover the cause of the disease, develop new treatments and find a cure.

Kirsch’s grandfather, Ben Ealy, lasted only a few months after being diagnosed with ALS a little more than three years ago. Kirsch described the man as a strong-willed former Marine who remained fully independent into his twilight years, but he ultimately succumbed to the disease in May 2011 at age 83.

Four years ago, Kirsch organized his first charity magic show, a fundraiser to fight the autoimmune disease lupus. But after his grandfather passed away, he decided to focus his attention on another worthy cause with ALS of Michigan.

“This was something that I could connect with on a more personal level,” Kirsch said. “I have a lot better understanding about what people with ALS are going through, so it feels like I’m honoring my grandpa’s memory in some way by doing this.”

John D’Anna — who owns and operates the Music Stadium along with his wife, Karen — also has a personal connection with ALS, as Karen’s cousin passed away from the disease last year. When Kirsch, who teaches summer magic workshops at the Music Stadium, needed a venue for his ALS fundraiser, D’Anna gladly offered up his business as its long-term home.

D’Anna has another reason for getting involved in the event, as well: In 2008, he and Karen were involved in a near-fatal car accident that put him in the hospital for a month and in a wheelchair for 2 1/2 years. He is now able to walk with the assistance of a cane, but the experience forever changed him.

“When I was in a wheelchair, it was a really difficult time for me,” D’Anna said. “But I told my wife, ‘If I ever get out of this chair, I want to do something for people who can’t get out of a chair.’ That’s how this whole thing got started.”

According to Joanne K. Berry, development director for ALS of Michigan, the need for ALS support is “absolutely huge” because the disease is fatal and the life span of those afflicted is so short, with most people surviving only two to five years after being diagnosed. With those factors in mind, the organization’s primary goal is to help people with ALS learn how to live full and satisfying lives.

ALS of Michigan gets a big boost from what Berry called “third-party family and friends” like Kirsch, who work collaboratively with the organization to help raise funding and awareness.

“Our volunteers are very creative,” she said. “They put together so many different types of events: golf outings, bowling nights, ice skating events, car shows, euchre tournaments, fancy dinners and dances. We have a wide variety of donors, but Dale is our only magician. What’s nice about an event like Dale’s is that we’re able to tap into an audience that we might be able to reach otherwise. It gets our message out there to some new people.”

For the “Beyond Reality” magic show, Kirsch will be sharing the stage with his friend Adam Arcana, who he described as a “sideshow type of magician.” By contrast, the self-taught Kirsch approaches his performances in a more “artistic” way, using everything from sleight-of-hand and illusion to music, comedy and drama to put on a show that he believes can appeal to people of all ages, not just children.

“I don’t really have one particular specialty that I’m known for,” he said, “but I do feel like I offer something for everyone. My role as a magician is to give people a way to push their regular lives aside and just enjoy themselves. For an hour, you can escape reality, relax and forget about everything that’s going on in the world. You can remember what it’s like to be a kid again.”

Although Kirsch was never able to make a living off his magic like he had hoped, he has no regrets about the path that he has taken. He just hopes that his grandfather — his inspiration for giving back to others with his passion — would be proud of what he’s doing now.

“When you’re doing magic for charity, you can just focus on all the important parts instead of worrying about the business part,” Kirsch said. “The magic in my shows has not suffered at all because of this — in fact, it has only gotten better. This is all about putting on a great show, giving people a fun night out and raising money for a great cause.”

Tickets to the “Beyond Reality” magic show and fundraiser are available at the Music Stadium either in advance by calling (586) 226-9006 or at the door on the night of the event. For more information, visit www.alsofmichigan.org.