Broadway actress shines a light on Camp Tatiyee

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The lights of Broadway are shining brightly on a free camp for kids in Arizona. For 10 weeks each summer in Pinetop Lakeside, there's a camp for special needs kids called Camp Tatiyee. This summer, they received a surprise guest, all the way from the Big Apple.

"Spring Awakening" was one of the hottest shows on Broadway. The musical revival opened in New York last year and earned eight Tony Awards. One of its stand-out stars is 29-year-old Ali Stroker. And after spending just a few moments with her, she'll have you believing anything is possible. "First of all, if there is a will, there is a way," Ali shared with us right away.  

Ali's smashing all obstacles and making history, as the first actor in a wheelchair on Broadway. This accomplishment, Stroker says, brings her great joy, and a sense of pride to be an advocate for her community.

"I've always felt like an advocate in some way, but ever since Spring Awakening, it felt like the perfect way to use my voice and speak for my community through the arts, which I think is a powerful way to do that," she says.

This spunky actress was paralyzed from the chest down in car accident when she was 2. Fast-forward to five years later, she began performing on stage at the age of 7. "I've been singing since I was 7 years old, and doing theater since I was 7. So this is my thing; I love it."

Recently Stroker took her love of the theater and positive outlook, to the pines of Lions Camp Tatiyee in the white mountains of Pine-top Lakeside. Here, special needs kids with all kinds of abilities get to enjoy nature, spend a week away from home, and test their boundaries, all for free.   

"We've done workshops and different programs and a cool talk-back, talent shows, concerts. And it's been such a way to connect with my community," Stroker says.

As a guest camp leader, Stroker's mission was to encourage confidence and self-expression and teach leadership through the arts. It's an experience she says she would have loved, herself, as a child, but there were no opportunities like this where she grew up.

"So to show up on Tuesday, and to be able to get around a 'woodsy' kind of area is so unique, I don't take that for granted ever," says Stroker. "And then getting to know the campers and talking to them, and they were like, 'this is my favorite place in the world. If Camp Tatiyee didn't exist, I don't know what I would do,'" she recalls them saying to her.

And, by the end of the week, Stroker found the magic of Camp Tatiyee had impacted her just as much as she was hoping to impact the kids, and she promises to return next year.

"Camp Tatiyee is such an amazing support system, I think for all of the people that go there, and already feels like a support system for me."

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