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