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story.lead_photo.caption Pictured are members of California's Sheltered Reality practice site and their parent sponsor, Kayle Kiesling. Photo by Kayle Kiesling

Area youth are beginning to drum up some charitable support, for themselves and the less fortunate, as part of a nonprofit organization that recently began operating in California.

Sheltered Reality, a nonprofit organization using music and education to reach out to audiences to motivate them to advocate for those in need, brought a practice site to California earlier this year in February. Since then, those involved have been practicing to play in a drumline at schools and other events throughout the Mid-Missouri area and surrounding states, while more recently taking part in a charity drive to benefit not only the drummers involved but also third-world countries.

This year marks the third that Sheltered Reality has put on a shoe drive across all of its chapters. There's a kickback to each chapter for donating shoes — for every 25 pairs collected, bagged and sent to the home office to be delivered to impoverished areas of third-world countries, a Sheltered Reality chapter collects $100. Donation sites are set to quickly expand across California — area businesses may also post flyers for the drive and help with collection.

"When they resell them there, they sell them at a poverty level, so kids and adults of all ages and sizes can afford to have a pair of shoes on their feet," parent sponsor Kayle Kiesling said.

The goal for Sheltered Reality as a whole is to raise $10,000 worth of shoes across all its practice sites, which Kiesling said equates to about 1,000 bags of 25 pairs of shoes. In just the first few weeks of collecting donations, Kiesling said she estimates the California site has already collected about five bags of shoes.

The nonprofit organization, founded by Steve Schlosser in Iowa in 1996, currently has 27 practice sites listed across eight states in the Midwest. Schlosser's goal, Kiesling said, was to send a message to children throughout the country to follow their dreams, take chances and discourage bullying. Kiesling said she's really noticed how empowered students seem to be at Sheltered Reality performances — almost as if they're "buying in," she said. Each practice site is responsible for its own fundraising for drum sets, and then performs with Schlosser when he visits area schools or events nearby a site, along with practicing with him once each month.

Democrat photo/Austin HornbostelParent sponsor Kayle Kiesling poses next to the donated shoes she's accumulated at her business, Exhale Spa. California's Sheltered Reality Drumline site will continue collecting shoes for donation through October.

Participants play drum sets comprised of two drums, a cymbal and cow bells. At some points during drumline shows, the entertainment also includes a visual spectacle, such as playing in the dark with lighted drumsticks or without sticks entirely — using something like a bouncy ball instead, for example.

"You're basically learning to juggle but also bounce the balls on drums," Kiesling said. "Balls go everywhere."

During their routines, drumlines with Sheltered Reality will often play along to popular songs that fit the theme of empowerment Kiesling described. She said one artist that especially resonates with Schlosser for this theming is Katy Perry, so many of her songs find their way into routines. Kiesling said the California group also plans to learn a Bon Jovi routine choreographed by a participant at one of the Iowa sites once it hits the right skill level, as well.

There are currently eight members involved with California's practice site, most of which are coming from the same fourth grade class. Kiesling gave their teacher, Alyson Rose, special thanks for her dedication to her students.

Despite the student participants hailing from the same class, Kiesling said there's no age limit on participating — she's even picked up her own pair of drumsticks. The group recently had their first performance after months of practice, joining Schlosser at his invitation for an event he'd been brought to at Capitol Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Jefferson City.

"I was only two weeks in, so I only played one song," Kiesling said. "But they stood up there and played for like an hour and a half, and I was really proud of them."

Besides the nonprofit's performances for local elementary schoolers, Kiesling said local exposure has largely been because of word of mouth and her efforts to broadcast to social media at practices. The goal, Kiesling said, is for the drumline to perform for its own community next year.

"We're still kind of getting out there what we are, honestly," Kiesling said. "But if you ask any of the elementary kids here in California, Missouri, 'What is Sheltered Reality?' they will tell you how awesome the show is, because the last two years Steve has come to our school (they remembered him)."

The group's first show local to California will be at the Ozark Ham and Turkey Festival Sept. 21. Drummers will participate in the parade that morning as well as a show at 1:15 p.m. on the stage near the post office downtown. The group will also have a booth at the festival.

Those interested in contributing gently worn, used and new shoes can bring donations to Exhale Spa, or any area business with a posted flyer, from now until the end of October.

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