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  1. Hillsborough

There's no business like show business for BSAC's TRIDENT program

BRANDON — They performed a collection of widely acclaimed song and dance routines that originally debuted on New York City's most famous theater district.

The adult students enrolled in the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center's Training and Recreation for the Intellectually Disabled Enhancing Their Natural Talents (TRIDENT) delivered inspiring performances in its two-hour musical performance "Broadway or Bust."

BSAC executive director Chuck Burgess, who crafted the idea of a show in 2011, called it, "Joy in its purest form."

The 7th annual TRIDENT Talent Show brought together participants ranging in age from 21 to 57 on Dec. 14. They belted out lyrics and strutted their stuff to such hit songs as It's A Hard Knock Life from Annie, Anything You Can Do from Annie Get Your Gun, Wash That Man Right Out of Your Hair from South Pacific, Chim Chim Cheree from Mary Poppins and Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera.

In total, they memorized the words of songs and dance steps for 17 routines orchestrated by TRIDENT director Candy Corsi. They routinely rehearsed for nearly a year.

As a result, the determined and disciplined cast of characters played out their roles almost flawlessly to the delight of a gym full of admiring family members and friends.

"We've had students who when they started were nonverbal and now they are out there singing with the rest of them," said Burgess, also noting that the program has grown from three to 34 students since it began in 2011.

No one was more pleased than Corsi, the mother of seven adopted special needs children, two of whom are in the program.

"I tell them there is nothing they can't do, only things they're not allowed to do," she said, "and I am so proud of them."

TRIDENT serves mentally challenged men and women, with some restrictions, who've aged out of area schools. The students participate in the program's sports activities, socialization opportunities and job skills training. It offers the option of attending two, three or five days a week.

Corsi's ultimate goal is to have 60 students.

"It's fun. It's not a job for me," she said.

Nancy and Maurice Jennings, the parents of 28-year-old Cory Shepard who was born with Down syndrome and is enrolled in the program five days a week, had front-row seats at the show.

"This means the world to us and it's the highlight of his day," said Nancy Jennings. "Without it he'd be sitting at home playing video games."

Kim Pickett, the mom of Sarah Pickett, 26, who has autism and comes three days a week to the center, also was among the audience members.

"For them to get my daughter to dance is a big deal," she said. "This TRIDENT program has really helped bring her out of her shell."

Additionally, Teresa and Carmelo Infantino — whose 36-year-old daughter JoAnne Infantino also has autism and since 2012 has attended the program five days a week — had an excellent view of their daughter during the performance from their seats near the center aisle.

"She loves it. This is where her life is," Teresa Infantino said. "She even has a quote, un-quote, boyfriend here."

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