by Becky GINOS
BOUNTIFUL—From making mud cookies decorated with sticks to owning an NBA team, Gail Miller has proven that hard work and perseverance can make dreams come true.
Now, students at Valley View Elementary will depict Larry and Gail’s journey in an original musical called “Our Home Court.” Based on their life, the play was written and produced by parents at the school. Their mission is to educate, inspire and entertain students as they portray real people and events using the performing arts to teach lasting lessons from real local heroes. Other original productions have included Col. Gail Halverson “The Candy Bomber,” Philo T. Farnsworth and Olympians Noelle Pikus Pace and Steve Holcomb.
Miller came to the school last week to speak to the children and hear musical selections from the play. She showed a short video about her early life.
In the clip it said when Gail was born, she was the only child her family could afford to have in a hospital. There was one light in her house that they moved from room to room and when Gail and Larry started dating in the ninth grade they went sledding. But they didn’t have a sleigh so they used her coat.
“I didn’t have many things of a material value,” Miller said. “Anyone ever play with mud? I liked to make mud pies. We also had this swing and my friend and I learned tricks on it. She’d sit on the top bar while I was swinging. I did flips and we thought we were so good we sold tickets to see us for a penny a piece.”
Miller said she liked to roller skate too and had this recurring dream that she was roller-skating and along the sidewalk there was money and she would scoop it up. “You can tell I was poor,” she laughed. “I was dreaming about money but that never happened. The sidewalk didn’t have money.”
School is very important, she told the children. “It prepares you for everything you do in life,” said Miller. “Learning is the only thing in this life you can keep and give away and never have less. Learn even when you’re out of school. Learn everywhere you go from everyone you know.”
She also encouraged the students to be kind. “It’s very important for you to be nice to each other,” she said. “Never be unkind to someone even if they look different than you. If someone at school doesn’t seem to have a friend – be their friend. Everyone has something special about them. Be nice to your brothers and sisters too. They are the most special people you’ll ever know.”
At the end of her presentation, she asked for questions from the children. One child asked if she knows all of her employees’ names. “I wish I did but I have 11,000 employees.”
Another boy asked who her favorite Jazz player is. “We have a lot of good Jazz players,” she said. “My favorite is Joe Ingles. He wasn’t drafted and was about to be cut but he came to us. He plays so hard and he hustles. One time he went for the ball so hard he hit my chair and I had to have surgery. So we have kind of a bond.”
Miller is pleased the school is doing the play. “It’s really neat and a good thing to do,” she said. “We’re very dedicated to education. That is where the future lies. They are future leaders and they are getting the tools so they can develop and learn how to interact with people. We know if a child falls behind it’s hard to catch up.”
It is exciting to see the children’s enthusiasm and the teachers’ dedication, she said. “They love these kids as much as their own. That’s what it means to be a teacher, to help a child reach their potential.”
Miller said people might look at her and think she has everything. “It isn’t what you have, it’s what you are,” she said. “None of it means anything if you don’t have a set of values. It’s all just fluff. I grew up poor and now I’m wealthy and I’ve been everything in between. But that doesn’t matter because I am who I am.”
She hopes taking part in the play will give students a sense of satisfaction of what they can accomplish. “I want the story to have an impact, something they can reach for,” said Miller. “To let them know they can become someone who can make a difference in the world and doing something well that brings joy to other people.”
“Our Home Court” runs March 1 – 3. For tickets or more information contact the school at 801-402-2050. Valley View is located at 1395 S. 600 East, Bountiful.