Man’s life is a juggling act
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News April 5, 2012 12:46PM
Mike Vondruska is the founder of the Illinois Juggling Institute in Bolingbrook. He will perform Saturday at the Timbers of Shorewood annual 10,000-egg Easter Egg Hunt. | submitted photo
If you go
What: Easter egg hunt
When: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Timbers of Shorewood, 1100 N. River Road
What: A 10,000-egg hunt. Also juggler Mike Vondruska, photos with the Easter bunny, petting zoo, caricature and portrait artists, clown, bead poodles, face painting, games, prizes refreshments.
Updated: May 7, 2012 8:04AM
Like many of us, Mike Vondruska is juggling several balls at one time. Unlike us, Vondruska is making a living at it.
Vondruska is the founder of the Illinois Juggling Institute in Bolingbrook, which offers motivational assembly programs, student participation workshops, entertaining performances and juggling supplies for beginners.
Armed with clubs, balls and his own brand of ad-libbing, Vondruska will entertain children and adults alike on Saturday at the Timbers of Shorewood annual 10,000-egg Easter egg hunt.
“I’ve juggled bowling balls and, for outside shows, maybe torches,” Vondruska said. “In the early ’80s, when I was young and reckless, I worked the Renaissance Faire near the Illinois-Wisconsin border. I did fire eating and I did it with long hair and a full beard and mustache.”
Vondruska was 11 when his best friend returned home from a vacation and showed Vondruska how his uncle taught him to juggle three tennis balls. He then taught his friend how to do the same.
The skill amused Vondruska for awhile, then he forgot about it until he was a sophomore college student at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Another student was teaching a community course at the school on juggling. Vondruska, intrigued, took the class, befriended the teacher, and later became the class’s teacher.
Together, the two attended conferences for the International Jugglers Association, awed at the skills of others. They later met a man whose goal was to establish juggling institutes across the country, In 1978, Vondruska formed the Illinois Juggling Institute and began offering three-day programs to schools.
“The first year, I visited 16 schools,” Vondruska said.
Since then, by his estimates, Vondruska has hosted more than 22,000 workshops and taught the art of juggling to well more than a million people. He has written and implemented juggling programs within schools.
Vondruska also performs for fun, such as the 1,000-plus shows he has done at Navy Pier in Chicago. He’s entertained people throughout the United States as well as Canada, Mexico, China and even on cruise ships and in circuses.
But for Vondruska juggling is also a tool for teaching life lessons to school audiences. Juggling, he said, demonstrates the values of persistence, good decision making, goal setting and respect for others.
Juggling, Vondruska said, has several other advantages. The cross lateral component helps integrate the brain by stimulating communication between the left and right hemispheres. Activities performed above the heart help to positively stimulate that muscle.
“Juggling is also very portable,” Vondruska said. “You don’t need a gym, a big team or a field. You can juggle at your house, in your backyard. Once you learn it, you can do it for the rest of your life.”