DEL MAR — A new safety net for at-risk youth is being launched through the Flying Monkeys program sponsored by Circus Fund, a nonprofit school for trapeze artists.
The program will debut at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in a few weeks. It will also be offered at Kit Carson Park in Escondido.
Donations are needed for the J.A.K.E. Scholarship Fund, which underwrites the cost of the program.
The fund was established in memory of Jake “Monkey” Ayres, 19, a trapeze instructor at the school killed in September in a motorcycle accident. He was the son of David Ayres, founder of the Circus Fund.
“Jake was an extraordinary kid,” board member Lisa Ratner said. “David talks about how he had that calming effect on people since he was a baby, whoever would pick him up would visibly relax and fall asleep. He was so unassuming but had the hugest heart.”
Ratner explains that a $25 donation can send a student to the school for a day.
“Students will fly on the trapeze and learn aerial apparatus such as the tissue, single trapeze, lyra (aerial hoop) and Spanish web,” she said. “They’ll also learn ground arts including yoga, acrobalance as well as juggling and manipulation such as poi and hula hoops.”
Twenty students in the “Ten to Succeed” program at Clairemont High School are slated to be the first participants as a reward for getting good grades.
Ratner explains that trapeze instruction offers many benefits for kids.
“It instills character because they are facing their fears,” she said. “The sense of accomplishment is amazing and it’s instantaneous. They also learn teamwork in an environment where differences are valued.”
Before taking the class students must prove that they can hold their body weight for 15 seconds using a pull-up bar. Safety lines are wrapped around their waist before climbing to a 30-foot platform.
Then each student lifts their legs and hooks their knees on to a bar and releases their grip.
“You arch your back and look up to the catcher who is swinging in the opposite direction,” she said. “It’s all about timing. The catcher will grab a hold of your wrists.”
After the trick is completed, the student drops to the safety net.
“People embrace the experience in different ways,” Ratner said. “Some step into it, and do it, while others go from being terrified to laughing hysterically. As soon as you jump off the platform, you’re stepping into your fear and having fun.”
Circus Fund is San Diego’s only nonprofit flying trapeze school. Regular classes for kids and adults are scheduled Friday nights at 6 and 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Cost is $60. A portion of the fee supports J.A.K.E.’s Fund.
Ratner says those donating $40 to the fund will receive a Hula-hoop with a free lesson. Those donating $50 will receive a custom-made Hula-hoop and free lesson.
For more information or to make an online donation, visit www.circusfund.org. Checks designated for J.A.K.E.’s Fund can also be mailed to Lisa Ratner, 306 Chinquapin, Suite 12, Carlsbad, CA 92008.