When Francie Dillon walked into the El Dorado Hills Library the room lit up with excitement.
That’s what library Branch Manager Carolyn Brooks remembers about the children’s entertainer, who, along with her guitar, enchanted toddlers and their parents during her Jazz Babies programs. “The crowd got so big we had to add another show,” Brooks said.
Sadly, an as-yet-unidentified malady has kept Dillon from consistently performing for about two years now — a fact that still saddens El Dorado Hills parents, according to Brooks. It began with dizziness. Then the illness affected Dillon’s speech; her words would slur when she got emotional. Dillon had to give up Jazz Babies and many other shows and activities she had done in the Sacramento region for years.
“It was a huge void,” said Youth Services Librarian Deanna Blesso of losing the Jazz Babies program.
Parents still ask about Dillon, Brooks added.
Gone but definitely not forgotten, the entertainer definitely had a positive impact in the community. Now Brooks and Blesso invite everyone to have a positive impact on Dillon’s life. A fundraiser is planned from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Feb. 15, featuring performances by the Puppet Art Theater, the Poodlums and the Storytellers Guild, crafts, face painting, a photo booth and raffle prizes. Donations of $5 per person or $15 family are suggested; 100 percent of the proceeds go to Dillon.
“She’s been such a big part of this community,” Blesso said.
On Dillon’s side, it’s been nothing but a pleasure. Reached by phone last week, Dillon called her time at the El Dorado Hills Library “marvelous.” “The support of that community was so exciting and that program was so rewarding,” she said. “It was a joy to be a part of that.”
The library’s fundraiser is the second big event held for Dillon. Late last year Fairytale Town, where Dillon also regularly performed, hosted a fundraiser to celebrate the performer’s 20 years of tireless entertainment. With the communities rallying behind her, Dillon said she’s taking a new approach. “I’m focusing on the things I can do instead of the things I can’t do,” she explained.
What can she do? Dillon teaches children’s literature at California State University, Sacramento, and still takes the stage every once in a while.
“I will not let go (of performing),” she defiantly said.
On stage, Dillon said she feels free — delivering joy to her audiences and letting her creative spirit take over. Over the years, she has donated her performances to others in need.
Pausing to collect her thoughts and calm her slurring speech, Dillon said it was hard for her to accept the generosity of other people. She recently lost her home and filed for bankruptcy. Her teaching job pays the bills and she continues to see doctors in hopes of identifying the neurological disorder that has forced her into this “new normal.” Assistance from fundraisers “will help me through this discovery phase,” Dillon said, “and I know I will find my way.”
While acknowledging how much the financial contributions will help, Dillon said she appreciates more the kindness of the communities that have stepped up. ”You stand back and go, ‘Oh, my God, this is a beautiful world.’”
Dillon plans to attend the El Dorado Hills Library fundraiser. Brooks and Blesso said they hope the event will brighten Dillon’s outlook as much as she has brightened the lives of all the children who enjoyed her shows. “I don’t think it’s possible,” Blesso admitted, “but we’re going to try.”
Those who would like to help Dillon but can’t make it to the Feb. 15 fundraiser can make a donation online at franciedillon.wix.com/franciedillontrust.