By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Daniel Rosenthal performed his first professional magic show at a birthday party when he was 5 years old.
By the age of 8, he was doing shows at hospitals, including performing for chemotherapy patients at Santa Rosa Kaiser, where his father works as director of occupational and physical medicine.
Daniel was shocked by the number of sick and sad patients, but struck by how his act changed the mood.
“After the show, one of the patients waved me over and said ‘This is the first time I’ve heard laughter in here,’ ” he said.
As a result, “Magic is Medicine” was born.
Impressed by the joyful impact of his demonstrations, Daniel founded Magic is Medicine to enlist magicians to perform in hospitals, schools and rehabilitation and assisted-living centers across the country.
His efforts led him to be honored last month with a $36,000 grant from the Helen Diller Family Foundation.
The “Diller Teen Tikkun Olam” Awards annually gives $36,000 each to five California Jewish teens in recognition of their social service.
Tikkun Olam is a precept of Judaism meaning “repair of the world.”
Daniel, who is entering his sophomore year at Maria Carrillo High School, said the money will help him expand his mission of bringing good cheer through magic.
Among other things, it will pay for boxes of therapeutic magic tricks to give to patients and students.
He already has created a board of advisors consisting of doctors and leading members of magicians’ organizations.
He’s had some guidance and advice from master illusionist David Copperfield, who runs an organization called Project Magic. It also deals with the therapeutic power of magic.
The notion that magic can dispel gloom isn’t new. On Daniel’s website, www.MagicisMedicine.org, the late, great Harry Houdini is shown performing for smiling, hospitalized children.
Daniel said that magic can help alleviate the loneliness and isolation that accompanies sickness.
One of his favorite tricks is the highly interactive “Sponge Balls.”
He places a red foam ball into a subject’s palm and has him close his hand. When the person re-opens their hand, the ball multiplies, as if by magic.
Daniel has been honing his sleight-of-hand since the age of 3, when his uncle showed him his first trick — how to make a coin disappear and reappear. Now he’s helping to enlist and audition magicians and coordinate magic shows in the Bay Area and beyond.
“We’re looking for people to share the magic,” he says.
He’s setting up a show at the Miami Children’s Hospital and in the past month has performed at a number of places, including the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford University, the University of California San Francisco’s Family House for cancer patients and the Children’s Learning Center in Alameda, a facility for the developmentally disabled.
He also started a magic club at his high school and demonstrates his act for student clubs.
Daniel is far from being a one-trick pony. He also plays violin and has earned multiple solo violin awards. And he’s been practicing Taekwondo and karate from an early age. He is close to achieving his black belt.
But his love is for magic and bringing it to those who will benefit.
“There’s such a great demand for magic,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lives with: Parents, 13-year-old twin brothers and 10-year-old sister in Santa Rosa.
What’s on his iPod: Beethoven; Klezmer
Hobbies: Magic, violin, martial arts
Dream job: medical doctor
Favorite TV Show: None, doesn’t watch much. But favorite movie is “Paint Your Wagon.”
Books: Loves Short Stories and Jack London.
Favorite food: Falafel and his grandmother’s Latkas and Kugel.
Quote: “I have such a passion for magic and such a potential; I was invited at a young age to join the Society of American Magicians.”