Magician honors late daughter with annual charity shows
When Gurnee resident Jim Stanislawski staged his first charity magic show in 2004, all he wanted to do was honor his late daughter Jackie and her giving spirit.
Eight years later, the annual Jackie's Magic shows have collected thousands of pounds of canned food for local pantries, as well as money for other community organizations.
"We really appreciate all the support," Stanislawski said. "It keeps Jackie's memory alive."
A student at the College of Lake County, Jackie Stanislawski was killed in a car accident in December 2003. At the time, she had been collecting bags of food for a charity drive, and her parents were surprised to find the goods in the trunk of her car.
The discovery prompted Jim Stanislawski -- who's performed magic professionally for 25 years -- to hold the first Jackie's Magic event as a way to continue the work she'd been doing.
Instead of paying an admission fee, people must simply donate canned food to enjoy the entertainment, which features multiple magicians each year.
The inaugural show drew 300 people and yielded 400 pounds of donated food. Within a few years, the audience had more than doubled and the donated food could be measured in tons.
"He's finding ways to continue what Jackie was trying to do," Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said. "He's spreading that same value that he instilled in his daughter."
The Warren Township Food Pantry has been a regular beneficiary of the shows. Funds collected also help a program that provides services for students with special needs at Warren Township High School.
Stanislawski works with student groups at the high school to promote the shows and the food drives. It's the first time some of the kids do organized charity work, Kovarik said.
"The kids get really pumped up about it," she said.
The most recent Jackie's Magic show was held in late October. It garnered 2,500 pounds of food and $4,050 in cash donations.
Eight magicians already are lined up for the 2013 show, Stanislawski said.
Putting the show together can occasionally be difficult emotionally for Stanislawski, because it makes him think about Jackie's accident.
But when the audience shows up and the performers step out onstage, "it's actually pretty awesome," he said.