The pirates enter from stage left, bopping to the hip-hop music blaring from a Bluetooth speaker as they take their spots in front of the ship.
It’s the last day before Thanksgiving break and the energy in the Lincoln North Star auditorium is palpable.
“Are you ready?” Lindsay Masin asks the students as they prepare to practice one last number. “Can I get an arrrrrgh?”
The rehearsal for North Star’s production of “Jingle Arrgh the Way!” — a pirate-themed Christmas musical — is like any other rehearsal for a school performance.
Except in one way.
Special-education students from North Star’s unified club have a role to play.
High schools across Lincoln have a number of unified programs that pair students with disabilities with their general education peers in activities such as bowling and track.
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But Masin noticed that there wasn’t a theater option for students. So instead of the usual one-act competition the school stages in December, she picked a playful Christmas show for young children — and invited unified students to join in on the holiday cheer.
“I think it’s so great for our students that no matter what your ability is, you can do anything on the stage,” said Masin, who is in her second year as North Star’s theater director.
Masin, who lives with a disability herself, also had experience working with the Penguin Project at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, a musical theater group that casts children and young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities in all roles.
Directing a show like “Jingle Arrgh the Way,” Masin said, helps show students that theater doesn’t have to be so serious all the time: It can be fun and playful, too.
“I think sometimes we can forget that.”
The show revolves around a group of pirates who follow a treasure map that takes them on a trip to the North Pole and a special encounter with Santa Claus. And, of course, there’s catchy music along the way — including a hip-hop remix of “Deck the Halls.”
The show has a special significance to junior Anna Metzger, who plays a pirate in the show. Metzger’s brother is a special-education student.
“I feel like (the unified students) really feel like a part of the group when they’re with us,” Metzger said. “Everybody’s just doing one show and having fun.”
Students pair up with their unified classmates and walk them through the songs and directions of the musical at rehearsal, encouraging them all along the way.
The musical will be performed at the North Star auditorium Dec. 8-9 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at lnstheatre.seatyourself.biz.
Freshman Vivian Nguyen is on the costume crew, helping organize the pirates’ garb and makeup. To her, the musical is about building an inclusive community.
“Theater is supposed to be for everyone, not just for people who don’t have disabilities. It should be for everyone and accessible to everyone,” she said.
North Star is the first Lincoln high school to have a unified theater production, and Masin is hoping to start a unified theater class next year so the students can have more time to practice.
“The hour goes really fast,” she said.
On Tuesday, the students ended their rehearsal before leaving for the holiday break the same way they end all of their rehearsals: With a dance party.
Said Masin: “That’s everyone’s favorite part.”
Lincoln-area residents who need a helping hand this holiday season
Lincoln Housing Authority
Contact Courtney Gadeken at 402-434-5529 or courtney@L-housing.com
Alicia moved to Lincoln over three years ago and has little support here. She attended college until family health issues developed. She hopes to return to school next semester. She works two jobs to make ends meet. Being able to provide a decent Christmas for her four children (ages 16, 11, 7 & 4) is her wish for the holidays. She needs clothing, shoes, gift cards and toys for her children.
Melissa, a single mother of five children (ages 1-15) works full time. Most of her income was used recently to repair her vehicle. Now she found out another expensive repair needs to be done. She needs help with the cost of the repairs and gas gift cards to take her children to school and get to work. She could also use help with clothing for her kids and gift cards to allow her children to select a gift for Christmas.
Contact Meg at 402-475-7777 or email@example.com
Brooklynn, a woman in her 20s, came to Fresh Start to escape a domestic violence situation. Fresh Start is helping her believe in herself again. Brooklynn works full time and attends school part time. She could use Bluetooth ear buds, a Walmart gift card and gas cards.
Harlem, a woman in her 30s, is completing drug court while maintaining her sobriety. She’d like gift cards to Walmart for personal items and over-the-counter medications. Harlem needs items for her apartment such as a matching bathroom towel set, twin sheets (extra-long/deep pocket) and Tupperware.
Morgan, a woman in her 40s, is out of treatment and learning how to live a sober life. She works part time. Morgan would like gas cards to help her get to work and a small lighted makeup mirror for her room. Fresh Start could also use wall mirrors for other resident rooms.
Sandy, a woman in her 20s, resided at Fresh Start earlier in 2022 and successfully completed the program. She is now in her own home and has an income, but money is tight. Sandy wants new dishes, a set of plastic glasses or a grocery gift card.
Fresh Start is a transitional shelter for women who are experiencing homelessness. Staff members help the residents by working on a goal plan that includes activities like getting a job, finding safe housing and addressing health needs. We need toilet paper, Walmart cards, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, Kleenexes and lotion.
Contact Melissa Aldrich at 402-441-3768 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristine has a daughter Zula, age 3, and is eight months pregnant with her second daughter. They’ve lived in a long-term residential treatment center since July. Kristine is graduating in February. She needs clothes for Zula (size 3T-4T) shoes (9T-10T), socks, hygiene products and drinking cups. Kristine needs diapers and wipes for the baby to come, infant clothing, hygiene products for baby and baby bottles.
Dawn, a single mom in treatment, and her 5-year-old son, Leo, recently lost his father and are trying to heal. They lost their home in March and will be starting over when Dawn graduates treatment at the end of the month. They’re getting an apartment and seeking a fresh start. Leo needs socks (size 7/8), shoes (13), markers and coloring books, drinking cups, hair and hygiene products, clothes (pants size 8, shirts 10/12, hats and gloves. He would also like a remote-controlled vehicle for Christmas.
Joanna Madrigal, 34, is a single mother of four: Isaiah, Leighlon, Loraly and Robbie (ages 16, 13, 12 & 10). Joanna has battled with addiction and trauma for over 15 years. Coming to Lincoln and entering a women’s long-term treatment facility has been a life-altering experience. The family could use winter clothing: Robbie (size 10/12 boys), Loraly (juniors S/M), Leighlon (youth L) and Isaiah (adults M).
Voices of Hope
Contact Yaquelin Liaarrag at 402-476-2110 or email@example.com
Mary, 30, has left an abusive relationship with few resources. She and her two boys are struggling to have the basics. Mary needs gas cards for her to get to work and to her kids’ schools, as well as gift cards for food, cleaning products and hygiene supplies. She would also like sweatshirts (boys sizes 10 and 14) and gift certificates for family fun, such as movies, restaurants or activities for a family with boys ages 9 and 11.
Maria, 28, fled an abusive relationship, leaving with what she could fit in her car. She has her two children -- a boy, 7, and a girl, 6 -- and their dog. She has a new job but has little available income for household goods. She needs things to set up a new apartment including towels, twin sheets for a boy and girl, cleaning and laundry supplies, pet supplies, gas and food cards.
Susana, 32, was transported by LPD to Voices of Hope with her two children. They need coats (women’s 3XL, 9-12 months girl and 3T boy), mittens and hats and warm pajamas (9-12 months girl and 3T boy). She seeks help to pay for gas, food and her electric bill.
Haley, 22, is a survivor of sexual violence that was referred to Voices of Hope from the hospital. During the assault, her phone was stolen. Her bedding was taken as evidence. She would like a Tracfone with data minutes and a security camera, as well as new queen-size sheets and a blanket to feel comfortable returning to her home.
Contact Mandy Suing at 402-437-8815 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily lived in an unsafe environment at the age of 15. Emily’s sister, Nicole, 23, welcomed her into her small apartment and stepped in to care for her. Though she is still young herself, Nicole is moving forward with taking formal guardianship of Emily so the sisters can stay together. While Cedars has helped meet their basic needs, Nicole has sacrificed much since taking in her sister, and she can’t afford holiday gifts this year. Nicole and Emily would appreciate athletic clothing (adult size M and L) and gift cards to grocery stores and coffee chains.
Sunti, Bao and their two sons, ages 3 years and 6 months, recently immigrated to Nebraska from a refugee camp in Thailand, where they slept on a floor. This family is very grateful to be in the U.S., but adjusting to their new life has been difficult. Cedars has helped with access to parenting resources, quality child care and the essentials for their new home. This family would be grateful for any additional help. They need a vacuum, diapers, baby wipes and gift cards to Walmart.
Lancaster County Adult Drug Court
Contact Ashley at 531-207-5065 or email@example.com
Bill used the treatment tools from Drug Court to remain sober through some traumatic events. He is a father who could use help to buy gifts for his children, ages 10 to 16 (all boys).
Community Corrections needs self-care items for men and women entering its program, including toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body soap and grocery gift cards.
The Bridge Behavioral Health
Contact Taylor Brethouwer at 402-413-2203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
James, 24, sought treatment for his alcohol use after losing his job and becoming homeless. He is working hard on his recovery but cannot afford his medication for diabetes. A donation of $50 will pay for a month’s supply.
George, 37, is in treatment for substance use disorder after losing his home and most of his belongings. George needs underwear (L-XL), athletic shorts (L-XL) and a wallet.
Contact Paige Kruse at 402-475-7666 or email@example.com
Alyana recently returned to HopeSpoke for adult outpatient mental health therapy, having received services in her youth. She and her teenage son, Brian, live with her parents. Gift cards would buy groceries, clothing and household items at Walmart or Amazon, or gas to help her get to work. Alyana’s mom needs yarn so she can knit and donate hats and scarves to local organizations. Other requests: Husker items or a watch for her father; a men’s XL winter coat for Brian; 1,000-piece puzzles and a puzzle tray; or vouchers to a movie theater.
Steven, 16, has been living at HopeSpoke’s group home and will be transitioning home over the holiday break. He and his family have worked hard to be reunited. His mom has limited resources to provide for Steven and his 6-year-old brother. The family could use Walmart or Target gift cards to purchase food and holiday gifts. Steven could use new clothing (men’s M) and shoes (size 9). The family also would appreciate movie or restaurant gift cards.
Jade, 13, told her HopeSpoke counselor all she expects for Christmas is “a high-five.” Her family hasn’t had much to celebrate the past few years due to her father’s employment issues and her mom’s struggles. Jade has a sister, age 9, and brothers, ages 10 and 4. They would love art supplies, Legos or Beyblades, a Na! Na! Na! Surprise doll and Paw Patrol helicopter. Target or Walmart gift cards would allow the parents to buy food and gifts.
Ryan and Lucas, both 18, reside at HopeSpoke’s group home but are transitioning into independent living. They have developed a supportive friendship that will carry them forward and have been working with HopeSpoke staff to find employment and develop life skills. Gift cards would help them buy groceries, cleaning supplies and other items needed for their first apartment.
Belmont Community Center
Contact Karen French at 402-477-8854 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura is a single mom of three children, ages 5, 6, and 8. Her eldest daughter is a child with special needs who is consistently joyful and very active. Laura works in our public school system. She and her children are regulars at community events and bring light into every room they enter. Gift cards to Target, Walmart, grocery stores or gas stations would help meet the needs of growing children and prepare for the holidays. Gift cards to restaurants or family fun activities are also welcome.
Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach
Contact Leanne Pelser at 402-817-0613 or Leanne.Pelser@mtkserves.org
Raevin is a mother of five children (daughters ages 10, 6 and 4; sons ages 3 years and 18 months). Raevin and her family have lost many loved ones over the past year and she is looking for work. Each child requests a Hoverboard. The girls would love gift cards at Five Below, and Barbie’s beauty items such as nail polish, hair spray dyes and makeup. The older son enjoys DIY building kits and Legos. Her younger son likes balls, lion and dog toys. The baby wears size 6 Pampers or Luvs. All the children love books and art and craft projects.
Ana recently lost her oldest child, and two other children had to leave the household due to unfortunate circumstances. Ana has five other children at home: girls ages 12, 9 and 6, and boys ages 17 and 15. The girls need winter clothes. The 12-year-old wears a 10/12 top, 12/14 bottom and size 8 women’s shoes; the 9-year-old wears an 8/10 size and size 4 shoes; the 6-year-old wears a 6/7 and size 1 shoes. The children would enjoy a basketball, art and craft supplies. The girls like jewelry, makeup and nail polish. The 12-year-old wants a shoe rack and a Bluetooth speaker. The 9-year-old would like a pink twin bed set and headphones. The 6-year-old would like roller skates or a bike, Barbie’s items and some socks. All the children would enjoy new books.
Emily is a single mom with two sons, ages 7 and 3. They were homeless for eight months before getting into an apartment with a housing subsidy. Emily and her older son have medical issues. The older boy would love black utility boots. He wears size 14 clothing and a 7 in shoes. The 3-year-old wears a 4T.
Lutheran Family Services
Contact Deanna Borg at 402-968-6580 or email@example.com
Tina, a single mom, has been caring for two foster children, ages 5 and 8, without assistance for the past few years. After a difficult year that started with the death of her dad and included fighting an autoimmune disease, multiple surgeries and being unable to work for long periods of time, their family could use gas and grocery gift cards and the opportunity for youth activities through a membership to the YMCA or funds for dance classes.
A grandpa and grandma who have guardianship of three of their grandchildren recently took in two more little ones, ages 2 and 7. They need gift cards for food and gas, as well as hygiene care, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels.
A grandmother who has guardianship of her granddaughters, ages 8 and 9, and is working toward adopting them could use some extra cheer. A recent foot injury has impacted her ability to work, and they are struggling with food, shelter and clothing. Gift cards for groceries, funds for rent, and clothing for the girls would be appreciated. The older granddaughter wears size 10/12 and a size 4Y shoe; the younger one wears size 7/8 and a 3Y shoe.
Katrina, 25, and her younger brother Michael, 10, lost their mom earlier this year and moved to Nebraska due to safety concerns in their previous location. With assistance from Lutheran Family Services, Katrina is working toward permanent guardianship of her brother and has secured safe, affordable, permanent housing. They would love a dresser, a queen-size bed, vacuum, electric dryer, kitchen table and chairs, sheets and towels, a coat rack, Christmas tree, paper products, cleaning supplies and funds for car repair.
A grandmother who is caring for her grandson needs help after the loss of his mother in November. The grandson, age 11, could use clothes, winter boots and toys to play with his dogs. He wears a size M in men’s pants and shirts and men’s 5½ for winter boots. The grandmother needs utility help, grocery vouchers, cat/dog food and rental assistance.
Center For People In Need
Sara is a college student finishing classes before entering the nursing program at SCC. She is a POP Scholarship recipient and will be the first in her family to graduate college. She works in a hospital part time. She has a son, 9, and will be moving into an apartment this month. She would love a desk and desk chair to accommodate her studies. She needs bath and kitchen towels, kitchen utensils, a set of dishes, vacuum and everyday household items. Her son needs a winter coat 14/16 (favorite color is blue), winter gloves, boots size 5 and a sled. He loves Harry Potter and Pokemon. They enjoy movies, Morrill Hall, the Children’s Museum, pizza and McDonald’s. Gift cards (gas, Walmart, Amazon) would help a lot.
Tara is in the center's EduTech program, pursuing her data analytics certificate. Tara is a single mom with a 13-year-old son who has helped her set up and understand Google Docs and Google Drive. Tara has had health problems and was living in the City Mission, but they finally have their own place. Tara faces several upcoming surgeries and physical therapy. Her son is a swimmer and needs athletic clothing in small-medium men’s sizes. He would like a BlendJet2 with a USB, a large fluffy microfiber bath sheet, a small TV for his room to hook up a video game and a bike. Tara wants a booster cable that doesn’t require a second vehicle, in case she needs to jump-start her car, and gift cards to LaundryLand, a gas gift card, household cleaners and personal hygiene items.
Becky is in the new EduTech program, pursuing her project management certificate. A single mother of five, she would like candles or yarn for crocheting. She said her kids always need clothes and she isn’t able to give them many toys. She could use a gas gift card, household cleaners and hygiene items. The kids’ wish lists: girl (age 9), size 14/16, loves O.M.G. and L.O.L. dolls; girl (7), size 10/12, loves L.O.L. dolls; boy (4), size 7, loves PJ Masks character set; boy (2), size 3T, anything that involves music; boy (7 months), size 12 months, baby toys.
Contact Halea at 402-309-4153 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jackie, a mother of five, has been struggling since being sick. Her husband is not able to work due to having to care for the children. The children are an 8-year-old girl (shoes, size 1 youth; clothes, size 8-9), a 9-year-old girl (shoes 3 youth, clothes 10), a 10-year-old boy (shoes 5 youth, clothes M/10-12), an 11-year-old girl (shoes 5 youth, clothes youth S) and a 16-year-old girl (shoes 7.5 women’s, clothes women’s M/18). The children also need bedding comforters, pillows and pillow cases.
Sarah, a mother of three, has been struggling to make ends meet with one income. The children are a 15-year-old boy (shoe size 8 men’s, clothing size men’s M), a 13-year-old girl (shoes 6 youth, clothing 14-16) and a 12-year-old boy (shoes youth 7, clothing 10-12). They also need comforters for their bed, pillows and pillow cases, and the children need jeans, sweat pants and tops. The 13-year-old girl also likes makeup and the boys like cologne.
Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department
Marco and Gabriella are a young couple who recently immigrated from Honduras with their two daughters. They recently had a baby -- their first son. Facing their first winter in Nebraska, the family needs clothes, coats and shoes. The 5-year-old girl wears a size 8 in clothes and a size 11 in shoes; the 4-year-old girl, size 7 in clothes size 10 shoes; and their son, 6-9 months’ clothes. Mom is a size S and wears a size 7 in shoes. Dad wears medium/large. The family could also use cozy blankets, pans and other cooking utensils and a shower curtain. Any toys for the kids would be a great bonus. Contact Dinorah at 402-432-0094 or email@example.com
Matt and Sarah, a young couple with two kids under the age of 3, are both working minimum-wage jobs. Every month they find they are falling behind. They need help with car expenses, diapers, gas cards, utilities or gift cards for groceries and other household items. Contact Amity at 402-310-9145
Bianca is a young mother of a 2-year-old girl, Bella. They lost their home this year, and their car broke down. Bella could use size 2T winter clothes and size 5 shoes, along with socks and a winter coat. Bianca would also appreciate pull-ups or underwear to start potty training Bella. Bianca could use yoga pants (size M) and shirts or sweatshirts (M/L), and the family would appreciate blankets. Contact Dinorah at 402-432-0094 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The HUB Central Access Point for Young Adults
Contact Rose Hood Buss at 402-471-8526 or email@example.com
Karis, 18, is juggling completing high school and caring for her younger twin siblings that are autistic. Karis has shown great determination to achieve her goals, including walking miles to get to school. They need winter coats (one size L, two size M), hats and gloves. Karis would appreciate gift cards to be able to order dinner or for a family outing to Makit Takit Craft Studio.
Morgan, 23, recently decided to complete inpatient drug/alcohol treatment following years of her own addiction and a lifetime of being the child of an addict. Morgan will be completing treatment and moving into an apartment in December. Morgan needs a size XL coat, hooded sweatshirts and socks. For her apartment she needs bathroom towels, full-size bedding, pots and pans, silverware, a broom and dustpan, trash can and a shower curtain rod.
Layla, 19, has been charting her path to independence without stable housing. She has graduated from high school and started college at UNL. Layla hopes to find an apartment in her price range and be able to experience stability. Layla needs warm clothing (long-sleeve shirts or sweatshirts, size S/M, and pants, size 8/10), socks, a hat and gloves. Layla needs dog food for her emotional support animal. Layla would like air pods/wireless headphones and household items.
Nguyen, 19, is a parent of a 2-year-old and working to complete her high school diploma. Shortly after the start of the school year her family suffered a house fire. They are still working to replace items such as a table, chairs and couch. The family also needs winter coats (size M for three females and size S for one male; children’s size 7-8 and 3T boys.
May Merriweather, 75, has no family or informal support system. She lives alone and has a heart condition that requires her to sleep in an anti-gravity chair. May purchased her original chair many years ago; she needs a new one, priced at about $1,000 (not covered by insurance). She has limited funds and faces many trips to the doctor for her worsening heart condition. Contact Pat B. at 402-441-3846 or PBethune@lincoln.ne.gov
John, 71, lives at Victorian Assisted Living and is on a fixed income with little spending money beyond paying for room and board. He has no family in the area to help him. A few months ago, the electric scooter he relied on was stolen. Contact Kasey Spellman at 402-441-1724 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ernest, 64, is on disability due to a stroke that has impacted his mobility. He has a kitchen swivel chair in his living room and has fallen several times trying to get out of it. He is on Medicaid, which will only pay for the motor on a lift chair. He cannot afford the remaining $800. Contact Jacki at 402-441-9319 or email@example.com
Betty Lou is an older woman who struggles with many health problems. She has diabetes and food restrictions, is very low income and frugal. A lack of transportation and poor health have combined to make her life very isolated. She runs out of food and funds before the end of the month. She would like gift cards to grocery stores. Contact Velvet at 402-441-6109 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Catholic Social Services
Contact Marilu at 402-327-6222 or email@example.com
Woman is caregiver of her granddaughter and is unemployed on Supplemental Security Income. Her father (her only means of support) died last year. She faces rising rent (up over $200) and a repair bill of around $500 for a vehicle that’s still in the shop. She would welcome any gift cards for groceries, a visa card or gas money.
Single mom of eight children (ages 16, 10, 9, 8, 6, 5, 4 and 3) has lots of medical issues, no health insurance and receives no child support. When her car’s transmission went out, she had to pay the repair bill, leaving her short of money to cover the rent and other bills. One of her children is disabled, for which she receives disability benefits, and one is diabetic and has to use insulin, which is covered by Medicaid. She received rental assistance in May 2021, but has received no other cash assistance from other agencies. She needs grocery gift cards or a visa card so she can buy clothing and toys for her children this Christmas.
Single mom, 40, with a 14-year-old son was in a car crash a month ago that left her with memory loss for over a week. Not working while she recovers, she has no health insurance and faces mounting medical bills. She was already behind on rent and bills due to being sick with COVID and missing work prior to the crash. Most of her support is limited to her friends from church. She was staying at her son’s godparents’ house while she was having memory loss. They paid for some of her doctor’s appointments, medications and missed work to take her to some appointments. They now need financial assistance as well.
Single mom, 26, with two children (ages 4 and 3) and another on the way has not worked since mid-September, when a combination of COVID and her pregnancy sidelined her. With no one available to watch the children, she seeks a job she can do from home. Any gift cards for groceries would be appreciated, as well as a visa card that would cover some toys for the kids.
An injury at work has resulted in financial difficulties and a sporadic work schedule for a single mom of two boys (ages 9 and 15) who worked 11 years for a cleaning company before hurting her hand, shoulders and back. Her youngest son received a new bike earlier this year, but her older son, now in high school, does not have a bike. In addition to a bike for the 15-year-old, the family would like gift cards for groceries or a visa card to buy gifts for the boys.
Families Inspiring Families
Natalie has lots of medical problems and lives with her parents so they can help with her two girls. She struggles with her own mental health and in trying to help a daughter dealing with her own mental health issues. Her oldest daughter is 13 (woman's size M, jeans 13/14 and shoes 8) and is into volleyball and teenage girl stuff. Her 6-year-old daughter wears 5T clothing and size 13 shoes and is into anything girlie. Contact Mandi Solie at 402-875-1596
A single mom worked with Families Inspiring Families voluntarily in wanting a better relationship with her 6-year-old son. She completed an Active Parenting class, implemented the parenting strategies and is developing a stronger relationship. Mom pays out of pocket for his after-school child care and would appreciate help with boys size 7 clothes and action figure toys. Contact Doretta Brookins at 402-875-1595 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the writer at email@example.com or 402-473-7225. On Twitter @HammackLJS