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Posted on Fri. Mar. 21, 2014 - 12:32 am EDT

Troupe ready to turn fundraiser into freak show

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If you go

What: Fifth Freedom presents “Beautiful Freakshow”

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits, 1915 S. Calhoun St.

Admission: $15 general admission at the door, $10 advance and $5 children ages 12 and younger; call 426-8789 for information

Amanda Zimmerman, also known by her stage name, Viviane Sweets, says performance troupe The Beautiful Freakshow was born out of a need to do performances not usually seen in Fort Wayne.

Mission accomplished.

Known to perform acrobatics and glass walking, members decide what they want to do and practice together until it’s performance-ready. Their eccentric acts will headline Fifth Freedom’s fundraising event and silent auction Sunday.

“There are fundraising events in town all the time,” Zimmerman says. “I think this makes it a little more special than the run-of-the-mill fundraiser.”

With Fifth Freedom continuing to grow its services for disabled communities statewide, the third annual fundraiser raises the stakes with hula hoopers, dancers, an LED light show and Zimmerman’s bed-of-nails performance.

Comedic magician Doug Schmidt will also be part of the event’s entertainment, offering audiences his predictions of the future.

Zimmerman says she spent the summer working on equally distributing her body weight across the plane of nails her husband built for her.

“You can research what you want to do, but you have to do it at some point,” she says. “It’s kind of trial and error.”

This will be the second year the Beautiful Freakshow will be a part of the fundraiser. Zimmerman says the troupe has a number of rotating performers, which can range from six to 12 members at any time.

The group has garnered a following on social media and at local events like the Buskerfest downtown.

Betty Beck, assistant director for Fifth Freedom, says she was fascinated with the Beautiful Freakshow the first time she saw them perform.

“There are so many fundraising events in town that you can begin to run out of ideas that someone would want to come out to see,” she says. “This is like a carnival-like variety show. Their makeup is freaky, and their performers come in all sizes and shapes.”

Fifth Freedom Network works with communities across the state to foster reasonable accommodations for disabled people; they also help disabled individuals regain their independence by educating them on their rights.

Although Beck says the organization has a presence in all 92 Indiana counties, Fifth Freedom only receives funding from contributions, fundraising activities and grants.

“Even though we are a statewide nonprofit, we still have a very small staff. And we are operating on the same budget we’ve had for several years, even though we have quadrupled in size,” Beck says. “We’re always looking for a way to raise some more money.”

Last fall, the organization launched a disability employment website, JobDoozy (, which sends out email alerts to more than 17,000 members regarding services for people with disabilities and veterans.

Beck says the website is beginning to pick up traffic from employers who are actively looking to diversify their workforce and want to learn more about the tax incentives available for business owners.

Beck says that often what’s missing in the dialogue between the disabled community and city officials and business owners is a mediator.

“We have a vision of a community where everyone is included. We all have the same wants and needs,” she says. “As our community ages, we’re all going to have a disability one day – you may need a cane or your hearing is less acute. Often times, accommodation is often much simpler than people realize.”

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