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In Photos: Community Shelter Circus School

When Hilary Sweeney saw a need to share the space she uses at Tarrytown Community Opportunity Center for her circus arts, she suggested opening it up as a shelter...but still there were circus arts.

The Community Opportunity Center was a buzzing hub all last week: rich with heat, electricity, blankets, food and support.

On Saturday, the large building took on a different level of energy as the new dojo for mixed martial arts and self defense classes for kids, teens and adults opened in the basement with demos and a trial class. Sempai Gabrielle Vazquez and Sensei J. Cruz, one of the highest ranking martial artists in the country, gave tours of the Mushin-Kai Dojo and its diverse yet traditional Japanese offerings, and sold delicious $1 cupcakes to raise money for their new venture.

The dojo, a matted room on the basement level of the center, will offer Aikido, Kenpo-Karate, traditional and hybrid Jujutsu. Also available will be Advanced Law Enforcement Tactics and Women's Self Defense programs. 

Upstairs, the gymnasium both served the community and entertained them. While the Red Cross set up their buffet for those enjoying the abundant heat here and the outlets/wifi, Hilary Sweeney's Westchester Circus Arts, another new tenant at the Community Center, was preparing to showcase their unique offerings on mats and with ribbons.

Sweeney, who gave up her usual class space in the main room last week to make way for this impromptu overnight shelter, described her experience of this final weekend of the power outages we suffered:

Last night was amazing. My teen students, Tess Weitzner and Katy Clayton performed for 150 guests during dinner time at the COC. They truly embodied the spirit of the circus as they brought surprise and levity to our friends and neighbors in need. Today, we offered a free family circus fun day and everyone (children and adults) got a chance to walk the tightwire, balance on the rolling globe, try their hand at juggling and fly on the aerial silks, with the help of volunteer students and instructors from Westchester Circus Arts (Carlo Pellegrini, Arley Morton, and Juli Burok).

The whole week proved meaningful to Sweeney, who also lacked power in Nyack but continued to go back and forth from home to here regularly to help the center in any way possible.

"I am so grateful that I got a chance to offer a respite to our community," Sweeney said. "I am humbled by the amount of genuine support we received...still processing it all. What a great town we live in."

For more information, see www.westchestercircusarts.com. For the martial arts weekend schedule and more information contact: TarrytownMMA@gmail.com or 347-223-1212.

The COC is still open as a warming shelter as needed, but is no longer an overnight shelter.

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