Cal. Rec. Aug. '99


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Danville's "Guiding Light" actress to perform benefit for Curtis Vance, The Caledonian Record, August 12, 1999.  by Stefanie Miller


    Danville native Beth Chamberlin of "Guiding Light" fame will illuminate the stage at Danville High School auditorium Saturday in a benefit reading for Curtis Vance.
    Vance, who will turn 26 on Aug. 18, is fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. 
    Vance graduated from Danville High School in 1991 and from Vermont Technical College in 1993.
    Before his illness struck, he was employed full-time as a logistics technician at IBM in Essex Junction, and on his days off from there, worked construction with Jon Webster.
    Vance's medical bills for the debilitating illness are astronomical.
    Chamberlin hopes that her staged reading of "Love Letters," a play by A. R. Gurney, will help ease the burden of some of those bills.  She's in town this week vacationing with her husband at Harvey's Lake, as she has for the past couple of summers.
    Performing with Chamberlin will be Joel Palmer of Vergennes, a Burlington chiropractor who has been involved in a lot of community theater in that area.  In high school, Chamberlin's best friend was his wife, Kim O'Boyle Palmer. 
    Chamberlin met Vance and his girlfriend, Heidi Erdmann, over Memorial Day weekend.  Chamberlin had run into Curtis' parents, Roy and Linda Vance of Danville, at a parade.
    The Vances mentioned to Chamberlin that Curtis and Heidi watch her show.
    "She sought us out and was just so pleasant.  We had a wonderful conversation," said Erdmann, adding that she and Curtis are thrilled about "Love Letters."
    "We're excited to see her perform live," said Erdmann.
    Memorial Day weekend wasn't the first time Chamberlin had met Vance.  They first met in 1990 at his junior prom at Danville High School.
    "His class asked me to come to their prom as 'mistress of ceremonies,'" she said.
    The visit was the beginning of a friendship.
    "These are two of the most incredible people you've ever had occasion to meet.  I walked away feeling so blessed that these people were now in my circle of friends," said Chamberlin.
    She also walked away feeling that she wanted to do something to help Curtis, but wasn't sure what.
    And with an especially hectic work schedule recently, she didn't have as much time until a few days ago to put into helping Vance as she would have liked.
    "My character was doing all kinds of crazy things," she said.
    Her character is Beth Raines.  Chamberlin was first on the show from September 1989 to February 1991, and rejoined it in November 1997.
    Through "Guiding Light," Chamberlin met an actor who helped bring ALS into the national spotlight - Michael Zaslow, who played Roger Thorpe.
    Zaslow died of the disease in December at the age of 54.
    In February 1998, he formed ZazAngels, together with friends and colleagues, to raise funds and increase awareness of the disease.
    The progressive disease of the nervous system causes degeneration of motor neurons in the brain stem and spinal cord, resulting in muscle atrophy.
    Chamberlin said Zaslow lost the use of his speech first.
    "As an actor, that was very difficult," she said.
    Although the incidence of ALS is five times greater than Huntington's disease and about equal to multiple sclerosis, funding for ALS research has lagged painfully behind other diseases.  There is currently no cure nor an effective treatment plan.
    Chamberlin still remembers Zaslow's kindness when she first started on the show.
    "Michael had said something to me that made me feel comfortable," she said.
    Vance has also made a remarkable impression on her.  At a healing circle held at the Danville Fair last weekend, it was obvious to Chamberlin that other people who come into contact with Curtis and Heidi feel the same way.
    "They feel like they've gotten more than they've given," Chamberlin said.  "I'm glad that there's something I can do to support them in any way possible."
    The actress hastened to point out that the "Love Letters" benefit has been a group effort, including help from her parents, Danville School and a friend from Universal Studios who helped with publicity.

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