Magic Man: David Copperfield

“I was getting letters from a young magician, asking me for advice, the normal kind of letters,” he said. “We’d corresponded and then he sent me a picture [of himself] from the local newspaper and he was in a wheelchair. I thought ‘He never told me he was disabled.’ I never  knew that he had any physical challenge and he would advertise himself as a magician, never revealing in the phone book or the newspaper ad for his magic that he was wheelchair-bound. And I asked him, ‘Hey how come you never told me you have any kind of physical challenge? What do you do when people have hired you as a performer and you show up in a wheelchair?’ And he said, ‘Well that was their problem.’ So his image of himself was not as a disabled person or a person with any challenges, but as a person who was just doing what he did. And I thought it was great.”

 On a personal level, Copperfield just underwent a magical transformation himself. His daughter, Sky, is now 19 months old.

For Copperfield, it was strangely reminiscent of how he had used magic to fit in as a child – “I think we are all a bit socially disabled, all searching for what makes us feel special,” he said. This was the spark that ignited Project Magic, a nonprofit in which magicians and occupational therapists work together to use magic and sleight of hand to work with physically disabled patients to improve their dexterity and help them rehabilitate.

“I came to a point where I realized its not just self esteem, I could help people feel better, to be healed, to help them exercise their cognitive skills, their dexterity, memory, planning, sequencing,” he said. “All those things through magic you could actually learn.”

The American Occupational Therapy Association even accredited the program as a legitimate form of therapy. “It’s in thousands of hospitals in 30 countries around the world,” Copperfield said. “So it works.”

On a personal level, Copperfield just underwent a magical transformation himself. His daughter, Sky, is now 19 months old.

“I have a new family now, which is a pretty amazing experience,” he said. “You learn a lot [by being a father.] You have to balance family. But living again through your children’s eyes also is a whole different perspective. Experiencing their discovery of the world can inform decisions you make and make you a complete person.” And does Sky appreciate magic? Well, they’re not quite sure yet. “A child does not have the concepts or precepts that magicians use,” he said. “We use this knowledge and information to amaze you. A child doesn’t have those concepts.” Maybe in a few years, she’ll appreciate her father’s trade. As for what’s next for Copperfield? He’s got another idea up his sleeve. But in true magician form, he’s not telling until the big reveal.

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