Every town has someone who does amazing work for the community but would rather stay out of the spot light.
A personal preference of Richard Wruth, 32, director and founder of the Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre, who was involuntarily named a recipient of this year’s Community Achievement Award through the BC Achievement Foundation.
“I never needed to be in the spotlight myself. It’s not why I do theatre,” Wruth said.
Each year the award is given to people who have gone above-and-beyond for their community and who have made a significant contribution either as volunteers or through the course of their work. Since starting the Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre in 1999, Wruth has worked with upwards of 1000 kids in more than 60 productions fostering the love of theatre amongst youth in Vanderhoof. “I’m honoured and it makes me feel great because there’s a lot of hard work that goes into every show. And honestly, it’s all for kids. We have more and more that sign up every year and it’s definitely growing thanks to the kids and parents who have helped it grow to where it is today,” Wruth said, showing again how hard it is for him to take all the credit. Lynnette Delisle, a mother volunteer of six years with the Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre, said Richard has one of the best work ethics she’s ever seen.
“His commitment to the theatre comes before just about everything in his life. He often puts the kids ahead of his own business,” she said.
Wruth recently declined invitations to accept the achievement award at the government house in Victoria or by means of a luncheon with the Premier since both dates conflicted with dress rehearsals for the upcoming production of his latest show, Bye Bye Birdie.
“I was nominated for reasons, I won for those reasons and I will stay for the same reasons,” he said when asked why he declined the invites.
Born and raised in Vanderhoof, Wruth always thought he would leave for school but as a requirement for Gr 12 graduation he put a number of hours into directing a play at his old elementary school. It went so well he did another one and soon all the elementary schools wanted to work with him. He decided to then take a year working with Vanderhoof kids before heading to university but just never left. He opened up his clothing store – California Dreamin’ – and focuses nearly all of his remaining time on theatre.
“I ended up staying and I don’t regret it for a minute. It’s amazing to watch kids come into the program and to see their smiles as the end result. If you can help someone break their fear of stage fright and peel those layers back that is the rewarding part,” he said.
Over time he has taken theatre kids to various training workshops and educational seminars.
“In a sense I still get to learn and sometimes I’m even reminded of things I’ve forgotten about,” he said.
Kirsten Hales, 19, a former children’s theatre performer, said she is so happy to have had Wruth as a leader and director throughout her high school acting career. “There could not have been a better person to volunteer their time and money to lead the Vanderhoof Children’s Theatre. His dedication and devotion to all of the children still amazes me. All of the stress that accompanies each show would be enough to make someone quit after the first one, but not Richard. He has created a program that encourages everybody to step out of their shell and try something new. There are auditions but everyone always gets in and if they’re little children that are new to the play, Richard will write new lines specifically for them to say so that everyone feels that they have a large role to play in the show. Being an older kid in the plays, you can see that change that many of the kids go through. They become less shy, more silly and outgoing. Although the children do get a bit much sometimes, you can tell that he still loves all of them equally the same. His devotion to those children in making them feel like equals and accepted is incredible. The hours that he puts in to ensure that the show is a great success is astonishing to me. He organizes fundraisers, large trips, prop creating and decorating and whenever we go on trips such as Prince George and Kelowna, I rarely ever see him eat because he is so busy with other things and ensuring that everyone has enough food and drinks. There’s also a funny side to him. As you get older he seems to be more outgoing and himself around all of the older kids. He is an extremely approachable person with a great sense of humour. I feel like I could talk to him about anything and he would be there to listen. Last year he took on the huge task of taking 40 children to Disneyland to take a few acting courses there. It was an incredible experience and having Richard there as a leader was the best part. I swear he was more excited than we were half the time. Richard definitely deserves this award because of his hard work ethic, dedication and devotion to the community of Vanderhoof and I couldn’t imagine Children’s Theatre without him.”