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Aaron’s Farewell Tour

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Anne-Marie Wood and Eric Schondorf, parents of 5th year trouper Aaron Schondorf

Watch this video looking back on Aaron’s years with Circus Smirkus, created by Andy Bell.

As we look forward to Aaron’s fifth and final season with The Big Top Tour, we can’t help recall driving up I-91 to Lyndon, Vermont in 2010 to take Aaron and his brother, Ethan, to the one-week summer Smirkus Camp session.  Even though it was Aaron’s first time away from home, from the minute we walked onto campus, the Smirkus counselors and staff could not have been more welcoming and enthusiastic.  His week was truly magical.

Circus SmirkusWhen Aaron decided to try out for the 2015 tour, we were again uncertain. Even if he were fortunate enough to be asked to join the Troupe, was he ready for the rigors of training, the challenges of living on the road with 29 other teenagers and the demands of a seven-week, 70 show performance schedule?  It was clear he would hone his circus skills, but how would someone who is naturally introverted take to performing in front of tens of thousands over the course of the summer? We could not be more proud of the way he has met these challenges, or more grateful for the incredible experience he has had each of these past five years as part of the Smirkus Big Top Tour.

Smirkus has given our son the unique opportunity to grow as both a performer and as a person in ways both anticipated and unexpected: working together with a team of talented kids, coaches and directors to create a magical, professional-quality show; learning to engage the audience in a manner authentic to himself; giving as much effort on the 50th show as the first because the audience is seeing the show for the first time; understanding the responsibilities of being an ambassador of the Troupe;  respecting, while not always agreeing with, others; pushing himself outside his comfort zone; not being afraid to fail; advocating for himself in difficult situations; pushing through pain and overcoming adversity; and the importance of hard work in achieving his goals.

Circus SmirkusNo lesson was as profound as the importance of community.  At the opening show of the 2016 summer tour, his second with Smirkus, Aaron fell backward after being flipped high in the air and badly broke his wrist in several places. It was a devastating experience for him – his entire summer, and the thing he cherished most, were dashed in a second. At the close of the email he sent to the Troupe from his bedroom in NYC following his surgery, he wrote:

Lately, I have been thinking about a certain quote… It says, “In life, you have two families: the one you are born into, and the one you create.” I am currently with my biological family, but currently my heart is with all of you. I am very honored to have worked with you these past three weeks, and I am happy that we are all a part of the Smirkus family. Moreover, I am happy to consider you all part of my family.

This is not goodbye, but simply “See you down the road!”, however short or long that road may be. If you think that a broken wrist will keep me away, then you don’t know who I am. I will be back before you know it.

As a parent, there is nothing more you could hope for from your child – in the face of difficult challenges, the expression of an open heart, resiliency, and determination.

As Aaron heads off to college, we know that he is ready for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.