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Hurricane Harvey hero from Lexington gets surprise Broadway thank you

'Come From Away' musical star reveals hurricane hero's gift

Astrid Van Wieren told Lexington native Zachary Dearing that he is being celebrated for his good heart, his spirit and his kindness during Hurricane Harvey, when he was praised by rescuers for taking over a makeshift shelter with medically fragile
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Astrid Van Wieren told Lexington native Zachary Dearing that he is being celebrated for his good heart, his spirit and his kindness during Hurricane Harvey, when he was praised by rescuers for taking over a makeshift shelter with medically fragile

When Lexington native Zachary Dearing was worried in a Texas makeshift shelter for the Hurricane Harvey victims who needed his help, the aspiring actor and screenwriter wasn’t thinking of the lights of Broadway. But his friends back in Lexington thought a trip to a Broadway show was the perfect way to thank their theater friend.

The Lexington native took over a storm shelter in Rockport and took care of medically fragile displaced residents and others in need of basic essentials, despite no medical training.

What he did to help Harvey victims was noticed in Kentucky.

One of his friends from Lexington, Robbie Morgan, messaged all of their mutual friends to raise money to send Dearing to a theater getaway in New York.

Morgan, who shares a theater background with Dearing, is a friend of a cast member, Astrid Van Wieren, of the Tony-nominated and much-praised Broadway musical “Come From Away.” From Van Wieren, Morgan obtained tickets and backstage passes to go with more than $1,000 collected for a flight and hotel.

“By the end, $1,200 was raised in no time at all,” Morgan said. “It’s a testament that it’s not unexpected what he did. Zachary has always been that type of guy who would step up. He’s just a caring guy. The fact we could raise the money so quick is a testament to him being a good, decent person.”

Dearing’s tickets, initially supplied by Van Wieren, were upgraded to the best seats in the house by the show’s producers.

“I wasn’t sure if the producers would allow it, because we get so many requests, but I told myself I’d get the tickets as long as she got him there,” Van Wieren said. “When I mentioned it to our producers, they immediately decided to help. They are such good people, and their bottom line is creative, not financial.”

Making the gift more special is the similarities between “Come From Away” and Dearing’s experiences after Harvey. The musical, set a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, tells the story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in a small Newfoundland town.

Just as Dearing did in Rockport, the town’s citizens stepped up to help others in need. Morgan thought it was the perfect gift.

“It’s really a beautiful, life-giving story. In tragedy, awesome things tend to happen,” Morgan said. “The drive to be good to people is more innate than the drive to harm others.”

Van Wieren said she is looking forward to meeting Dearing.

“I saw the story on Facebook and thought it was cool… An arts person stepping up and doing something incredible,” she said. “Can you imagine being in a shelter and realizing no one was stepping up? To take care of everyone like that, it’s a ‘Come From Away’ spirit.”

On Friday afternoon, Morgan shared a video on Facebook from Van Wieren, who let Dearing know about the trip.

“This is all to honor what you did,” she said in the video. “Many people stepped up, but you are being celebrated for your good heart, and your spirit and your kindness, which is so in keeping with our show.”

The gesture isn’t the only way people have repaid Dearing.

A GoFundMe page he previously created to help finance his feature film has surpassed his goal of $800. The posting was listed on June 22, and after no donations for two months, he has received 14 donations, for a total of $1,470, since he gained national attention during the hurricane.

The 14 donations include $1,000 from an anonymous donor, and messages including “For the good you’ve done, and the good you will do,” and “You deserve a chance to follow your dreams.”

The feature film Dearing is scripting is historical fiction set during the final years of the Western Roman Empire, titled “Legion of Fire.”

Mike Stunson: 859-231-1324, @mike_stunson

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