CHRISTMAS MAGIC: Program features a bit of Tom Phoolery

By Rick Rouan

An area magician performed and gave away Christmas dinner to some needy families.

Families at Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Midlothian Boulevard in Youngstown got to see a little Christmas magic Tuesday night.

About 50 children laughed and squealed with delight as a magician performed at the church before Santa Claus made an appearance. But the real magic, for some families, came with the donation of a Christmas meal.

“There’s family here, and there’s kids here,” said Tom Dowling, the magician from Tuesday’s show. “I love it when the parents get involved with their kids.”

Dowling, whose stage name is Tom Phoolery, has been doing magic for 30 years. He performs for day-care centers, libraries and banquets.

But Tuesday’s performance wasn’t a typical show. Dowling worked with the church to identify about 20 families that are struggling financially to whom he could provide Christmas dinner.

“You get good fortune, and you say ‘What are you going to do with it?’” said Dowling, of Austintown. “This is kind of [my] payback.”

Dowling worked with Minister Robin Brown to identify the families through the church’s day-care program, which primarily serves families that are less fortunate, Brown said.

“He wanted to reach the community,” Brown said. “He wanted families that need help.”

And help is what Dowling provided. After the show, which included a guest appearance by Santa Claus and an ice-cream social, Dowling gave out 20 large plastic bins filled with hams, potatoes, corn, beans and other foods along with toys for children.

“I try to give it to somebody who really is less fortunate,” Dowling said. “I feel good doing the show.”

The families, Brown said, can use the help.

“I think it really helps them a lot,” she said. “Trying to provide Christmas and food can be a struggle [for some families].”

On stage in front of a crowd of children, Tom Phoolery inspired awe and laughter.

He molded four handkerchiefs into one, splashed color onto the pages of a coloring book and, with the help of an assistant, made a snowman appear from some cotton balls, black and red rags and a carrot.

All of that, of course, with the magic words: purple pickles.

“I thought it was fun and interesting,” said Marnae’ Dubose-Clark, 10.

Kids of various ages watched the show, jumping from their seats on the floor to point out that the magician’s flower was drooping or that the pages of the coloring book were not blank.

And when his final trick was done — pulling a stuffed Santa Claus out of an empty chimney — the Jolly One himself made an appearance for children to sit on his lap.

Dowling said he has been doing Christmas shows for the last three weeks and that this one is special because of the help he could give to some area families.

“If everyone shared what they could, it would probably do a lot of good,” Dowling said.

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