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Thanks to a last-minute gift by a longtime local advocate of the arts, more than 270 children and parents were given free tickets to the Oregon Ballet Theatre's Thanksgiving weekend production of "The Nutcracker" at Juneau-Douglas High School.
Nancy Weaver sent a check to the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council on Friday, Nov. 26, a little more than 24 hours before the first performance, with the intention of reaching out to families who could not afford to attend.
"I wanted children to be able to go to the Nutcracker, and I thought some of them couldn't afford it," Weaver said. "It was a large gift, but I have a lot to be thankful for."
The arts council, led by board member Steve Hamilton, contacted social service groups and schools to invite kids to the ballet.
Between 2,600 and 2,800 spectators turned out to see the Oregon Ballet Theatre's four presentations of "The Nutcracker," according to the arts council. The JDHS auditorium seats approximately 970.
"I thought it was beautiful, I really did," Weaver said. "We had nice seats, and we could see well, and it was a beautiful performance. There were a lot of children that got to go and I was really happy about that."
"It was a beautiful gesture," outgoing Juneau Arts and Humanities Council executive director Sybil Davis said. "Nancy Weaver's gift to the arts council is a sterling example of personal philanthropy and research has shown that's the single most important and significant contribution to nonprofits."
Weaver has a personal connection to "The Nutcracker." Her daughter, Patty (Weaver) Judson, was in the Atlanta Ballet Company's version of the story when she was 13.
"Night after nigh I would go to rehearsals," Weaver said. "I got pretty tired of 'The Nutcracker," but of course, I enjoyed the performance."
"There were a lot of children that got to go and I was really happy about that."
"When we moved up here, she had to drop ballet," she said.
Weaver and her family moved to town in 1955. She worked for the federal government, as did her husband.
Her daughter, Mary Watson, is a well-known pianist in town. Her granddaughter, Sally Schlichting, is a noted flautist and a member of the Juneau Symphony. Two of her granddaughters, Susan and Mary Watson, are also accomplished artists.
"My grandchildren and my daughters have benefited so much from scholarships and things like that," Weaver said. "They've been so nice to my family, I felt like I ought to give something back."