“Sesame Street” puppeteer Kevin Clash will be the keynote speaker at Rainbow Fleet's Ruby Jubilee on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Clash is best known as the voice of Elmo, the friendly red creature beloved by children of all ages.
“We are thrilled that he is coming,” said Matilda Clements, president of Rainbow Fleet's board of directors and jubilee chairman. “He's an amazing entertainer and is passionate about what he does for children beyond just his role as puppeteer.”
Clash was not available for an interview. Clements said his “Sesame Street” contract will not allow him to appear with Elmo at the jubilee, although a full-sized Elmo puppet will be among items available at the event's silent auction.
An Emmy award winner, Clash has voiced Elmo since 1984. His fame grew with the puppet's popularity. He is the author of a 2006 book, “My Life as a Furry Red Monster,” and the star of an acclaimed 2011 documentary, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey.”
In some respects, his career has mirrored the growth of Rainbow Fleet, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary of work with child care centers, Clements said.
Rainbow Fleet was founded by Margaret “Peggy” Loeffler, director emeritus of Casady School's primary division, in 1972. Recognizing that children's educations begin before kindergarten, she loaded a “Magic Blue Bus” with toys and teaching tools and brought them directly to child care providers, rather like a bookmobile.
The fleet grew over time and expanded its services. The agency moved into a headquarters building in the Paseo district, developed a resource center and began offering programs paid for with public grants and private donations. The last bus left the streets in 2002.
The resource center is accessible for a yearly subscription fee of $40. Subscribers can check out teaching packets and receive instruction on how to present the information.
“Everything is organized by category and age and theme,” Clements said. “Animals, health, astronomy — anything you would want your child to learn, any category of learning, we have resource packets with all the materials, toys, books and how-to's.”
Free services include access to a child care health consultant, Hispanic services, child care training workshops and a federally funded food program for children.
Clash is a perfect person to speak at the Fleet's first jubilee because he comes from an early child care background, Clements said. When he was a boy, he began making puppets out of whatever scraps of materials he could find so that he could entertain the children in his mother's in-home day care.
At “Sesame Street,” he transformed Elmo from a bit player into a full-fledged star. The character, perpetually age 3 1/2, is a particular favorite among toddlers, teaching lessons of love and laughter.
Tickets are available for the jubilee, which will include live music, raffles, the auction and an honors ceremony. Tickets are $100. To buy tickets or to make a donation, call 521-1426 or go online to www.rainbowfleet.org.
Valarie Clemmons and Terry Walker will be honored as Outstanding Family Child Care Providers. Loeffler has been named the Legacy Honoree, and the Inasmuch Foundation is the Benefactor Honoree.
The jubilee begins at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Castle Falls Event Center, 820 N MacArthur. It is a themed event. Attendees are encouraged to dress in 1970s casual attire.