The Illusionist Delivers Positive Messages for Area Teens

Oct 29, 2018



October 27, 2018, Petoskey, MI- Earlier this month The Salvation Army of Petoskey brought The Illusionist, to Middle and High-School students in Harbor Springs, Charlevoix and Petoskey. Tom Coverly delivered an important message of inclusion, tolerance and respect to combat serious issues that often lead to bullying, self-harm or suicide.

About a year ago the local Advisory Board of the Petoskey Branch of the Salvation Army met to evaluate what the Army was doing for the community. It was looking for needs that weren’t being sufficiently met by other organizations. Traditional Salvation Army services such as food pantries and addiction services were being handled admirably by other non-profits in the area. The Army did not wish to duplicate services that were already well taken care of.

Many news sources discussed the growing national problem of teen bullying, which often leads to problems at school, depression and even suicide.  Advisory Board members and Salvation Army staff met with school officials in Harbor Springs, Petoskey and Charlevoix to solicit their views on the subject.  What the Army learned from the teachers and administrators was that there was an overwhelming need to address this issue head on, and while the schools were already working on it, they were open to any additional help the Army could provide. 

The local Corps administrators and volunteers studied the subject and determined that they would search for an appropriate motivational speaker to come to our area and talk to the students. After the approval of local school districts, over 2600 of our area teens in middle and high schools listened to motivational speaker Tom Coverly during 10 school assemblies earlier this month. Additionally, 3 evening faith-based family shows were held in the area. 

The approach Mr. Coverly used to gain the students attention was through comedy and illusions. He stated that every trick he would show the students was an illusion and not real.  He then went on to ask them to reject the illusions and false messages they are bombarded with by TV and the movies. Coverly emphasized to the students that it is not okay to disrespect others, nor should a young person feel the need to live up to society’s “illusory ideals” as shown on the front page of today’s glamor magazines. He told the students they are perfect just the way they are.

Tom Coverly delivered his message of respect for self and others; of respect for parents and authorities; of the fact that kids (and adults) all make mistakes and all of us want a second chance; of the responsibility we have to help others that are hurting in life; of realizing that the things each of us say can hurt others for a long time; and the power of saying “I’m sorry” (I hurt you) is awesome. 

School personnel commented that these assemblies were quite different from others in that the students were laser focused on Tom’s message. Charlevoix High/Middle School Principal, Suzanne Klinger said Tom Coverly “always has a meaningful message for all and is a good mix of inspiration, seriousness and cool magic” and Petoskey’s High School Principal, Mandy Stewart stated “Tom Coverly has a very engaging show, the students and staff were focused and paying attention, whether it was illusions, jokes, or strong positive messages” while Petoskey Middle School Principal, Jon Wilcox simply stated “That was powerful” after witnessing the effect the assembly had on his student body. Many parents and teachers commented that their children told them they love them and witnessed many students genuinely apologizing to one another for hurtful things they said or did years prior.

Envoy Greg Irwin, the local Salvation Army Pastor and administrator, said “It is our hope that this will continue to change student lives going forward. We will keep working with area youth leaders and parents to show support for students and let them know that we are here to listen and help them through tough times; and to remind them that they are valuable and loved and urge other members of the community to do the same”.

Envoy Irwin also mentioned “once we explained the need for the program, it was not hard to raise the money to put it together”.  Additional funds needed to sponsor the school assemblies came from the Petoskey Harbor Springs Community Foundation, Youth Endowment Grants Fund, Maggie and Bob Charlton Family Fund, Birchwood Outreach Fund, and Dan and Linda Casa Santa Family Fund, Special Olympics Michigan, Inc., Little Traverse Bay Kiwanis and other local contributors.

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the Universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

To give to The Petoskey Salvation Army, simply text SAPET to 41444, visit us at, or send a check or money order made out to The Salvation Army to 712 Pleasant Street, Petoskey, MI 49770. For more information about our ministry services and programs, please visit our website or call us at (231) 347-3531.

To hear Tom's broadcast on Northern Michigan Connections with Tim Nixon of Lite 96.3 please click HERE.


For more information about The Illusionist, Tom Coverly and Holy Wow Ministries, Inc. please visit his website:

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