The Curtain Rises

Posted on October 26, 2017

Supporting youths’ exposure to the performing arts is a passionate goal of the Cole Caruso Family Fund at the Community Foundation

Youth acting classes and live theatre performances had a profound impact on Cole Caruso—and it’s a passion he’s sharing in the community through his donor-advised fund. “It built the foundation of who I am today,” he says. “Theatre exposes young people to tolerance, respect for the craft, empathy, and a connection to their emotions. Plus, theatre people are just fun.”

Growing up in Sarasota, scholarships afforded the only opportunity for Caruso to attend acting classes at Florida Studio Theatre. “Since the age of 6, I have been really passionate about theatre. My mom recognized it was an important part of my life as a child,” he recalls. “If it wasn’t for the generosity of nonprofits and donors, I would haven’t gotten this foundation so key to my life. It helped me understand who I am and I enjoy giving back to people.”

Caruso, 32, is the president and CEO of Community Resource Network of Florida, which provides services and support to individuals with disabilities. To offset budget cuts to arts funding, he is helping to expose local youth to the performing arts through his donor-advised Cole Caruso Family Fund at the Community Foundation of Collier County.

The fund recently granted $3,000 to Estero High School for curtains and sound equipment. It paid for 25 Golden Gate High School students and five chaperones to attend the students’ first major theatrical production at Sugden Community Theatre.

Last academic year, the students were treated to “These Shining Lives” performed by the Naples Players. The play is set in the 1920’s, centered on female workers in a clock-making shop who begin falling ill due to toxic exposure—and decide to stand up for justice. “The performance was incredible and the students were crying…yes, crying…as they left the performance,” Golden Gate High School language arts teacher Courtney Cassidy reports. “They were able to meet the actors after the performance, hug them, and ask questions. Some of the students were theatre students and they were just overcome with emotion and gratitude.”

Caruso wasn’t surprised with the intense response. “Instead of the screen that’s in front of you, it’s important to see real experiences in front of you and connect to feelings,” he says. “I’m just passionate about helping people find their way and theatre is the perfect medium in today’s world.”