By Kate Atwood

If you travel extensively for work, there are still ways you can give back even while just visiting.

I recently ran into a couple of Ringling Brothers Circus clowns at an event and was excited to learn the show was coming to town in February. This run-in also inspired me to learn more about how they give back, knowing they visit a new town every week.

First, I learned the key to their giving is to find a relevant and pressing matter that can have a lasting impact in that particular community. This ensures that their impact remains, even after they leave. Just last year, when the Ringling Brothers Circus came to town, they were able to make a donation to the KIPP WAYS Academy, after a fire gutted their building in 2010.  KIPP WAYS has a successful fine arts program and the fire destroyed all of their instruments and equipment. Understanding the impact of this devastation, the Ringling Brothers made a sizable contribution to the school and even had the show’s ringmaster visit the school to spend time with the students.

In every community they visit, Ringling Brothers performers also make time to visit institutions such as local hospitals, senior centers and schools to help engage these groups in fun and educational programming. Just putting a smile of someone’s face is certainly giving back joy and they do so to people who can’t get to the show.

When the Ringling Brothers Circus finds a community partner they can really get behind, the entire show commits to hosting them in each community. This is the case with the Center for the Visually Impaired and the “tactile tour” hosted at the arena.  This private experience on the arena floor allows visually impaired students to experience the circus through touch, sound and smell. I particularly love this idea for its creative approach that certainly improves the lives of those who otherwise may never get to experience “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

If you travel throughout the year and find it hard to give back to the local communities you visit, here are three tips you can take from the clowns and crew of the Ringling Brothers Circus:

  • Check out a local paper and find a problem or issue that you can help address either through volunteering your time or making a donation.
  • Identify the time you have available to help.  Building the activity around your schedule will help you commit routinely even if you do change cities.
  • Find a cause that fits your “personality” – a skill or expertise that you can lend to a group or an individual in need.  Make this time away from home feel like home.

The Ringling Brothers Circus will be at Philips Arena Feb.15-20 and at the Arena at Gwinnett Feb. 23-26. More information on tickets and show times can be found by visiting RINGLING.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.