It’s one thing to bemoan the mistreatment and undeserved bad rap pit bulls receive in the media. It’s another to step up and do something about changing people’s misguided perceptions. Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, please focus your attention on Jeff and Julie Jenkins and their Midnight Circus family, featuring artists, aerialists, musicians and …. performing pit bulls!
In addition to raising a family of humans, Jeff Jenkins, Executive Director of Chicago’s Midnight Circus in the Parks, is also heavily involved in animal welfare. Jenkins earned his circus stripes with Ringling Bros., leaving that organization and, in 2006, establishing his own small performing troupe. They traveled throughout Europe, experiencing the heightened intimacy of small-town theatrical showcases, and vowed to establish a similar big-top in their home town of Chicago.
Jenkins had been exposed to the varying ways in which animals and humans work together under the lights, and was committed to providing his audience with a more humane experience. And he already had a way with the pooches. Starting small, Jenkins began incorporating Lola, the family’s adopted pit bull, into the Chicago show.
Lola’s performance was especially well-received and, in fact, anticipated by patrons. Says Jenkins,
“Not every performer was for everybody, but every audience member loved that dog.”
Over the past few years, the family’s other locally adopted pit bulls have joyfully joined the act. First Rosie Rae stepped in as Lola began retiring from the ring. Junebug, eight years Rosie’s junior, is now the troupe’s ‘big dog’. Midnight Circus tells ShelterMe that, in addition to being wonderful performers, all three are beloved family pets.
Jenkins also spends his time in the community among young owners of pit bulls. Working with the Anti-Cruelty Society and the Humane Society of the United States, he teaches these dog owners and their canines a variety of tricks so that instead of the dogs being tested against each other in destructive ways, such as dog-fighting, they can compete to see who can do the best tricks.
Midnight Circus gives back to the Chicago community in other ways. They donate a large portion of their profits to improving local parks. At last count, that donation has surpassed $850,00.
And they’re stepping beyond the Chicago borders. They’ve committed to helping the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Building a community is part of the mission of the Circus, and they are donating 100% of the profits from the October 12 performance towards the Red Cross’s rebuild of that devastated island community. Everyone involved is donating their time to this performance. Tickets to the benefit are available here, but you’ll have to click fast and step right up now to get one – they’re almost gone!
Here’s the link to upcoming Midnight Circus performances, check back as it’s updated! Using the arts to entertain AND promote social change – now that’s a high-flying act that’s reaching new heights!
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