Chuck Katis, on a London vacation with his family in 2000, was mystified as he watched a street magician produce money seemingly from thin air. With a well-practiced sleight of hand, the performer quickly turned one coin into two, then two into four, and so on until Chuck was looking at a small pile of silver in the man’s palm. That was all Chuck needed to see.
“Mom! Mom! We’re going to be rich,” the eight-year old exclaimed.
He begged his mother to purchase a magic set so that he, too, could begin multiplying coins and making his own fortune. But the answer Chuck received was not the one he had hoped for. “Just keep looking, you don’t need that,” she told him. Chuck was understandably crushed, but the magic set materialized under the Katis family tree that Christmas.
Now a senior at Langley, Chuck has developed an extensive repertoire of card tricks and illusions. Last summer he decided that he wanted to do more with his magic than impress friends and family, so he teamed with his twin sister Jayme to found a non-profit organization, which they named The Magic of Miracles.
Chuck and Jayme envisioned an organization that would bring wonder and joy to the lives of young cancer patients receiving treatment at local hospitals, combining their mutual love for community service and Chuck’s knack for card tricks.
A few years ago, “I was in the hospital for two weeks and it really helped to have friends and family visit me,” Jayme said. “My accident wasn’t as bad as having cancer or some terminal disease, but just to have a smiling face come to visit, let alone do a magic trick, really brightened my days.”
Just this past week The Magic of Miracles received its 501(c) status from the IRS, officially making it a tax-exempt, non-profit organization under federal law. Chuck, Jayme, and fellow magicians associated with The Magic of Miracles are primed to make their first visit out to Fairfax and Arlington Hospitals this weekend and will entertain an invitation from the Maryland-based Center for Children and Families in the coming weeks.
However, some would argue that Chuck and Jayme’s swims are more jaw-dropping than their card tricks. Both are graduating seniors and standout performers for Langley.
Chuck, who has committed to swim at Harvard next year, is a three-time All-American, a first-team Washington Post All-Met selection, and a member of the national record-setting 200 medley relay team. However, before putting his high school career to rest, Chuck has several goals he would like to accomplish. In particular, he has his eyes on Ed Moses’s public high school short-course 100M breaststroke record (1:03.35), which eluded Katis by less than a second at the 2010 Virginia AAA State Swimming and Diving Championships.
Jayme is an accomplished swimmer in her own right. Last year, she was the Northern Region champion in the 200 freestyle and notched a pair of fourth-place finishes at the state championship meet in the 100 and 200 free. Jayme, too, has committed to one of the nation’s top swimming programs, selecting Virginia Tech as the next destination in her athletic and academic career. Certainly the adjustment to college life and ACC swimming will be daunting, but the single thing Jayme is most concerned about as she looks ahead to school is “being separated [from Chuck] for once in our lives.”
Although they will be at different schools, the Katis twins vow to remain heavily involved in community service – and for good reason. They have felt the impact of their work firsthand.
Following a serious sledding accident in 2006, Jayme was being rushed to the hospital when the EMT in the back of the ambulance handed her a Beanie Baby courtesy of a program called “Beanies for Angels”.
Despite the severity of moment, all Jayme could do was smile. She was quite familiar with the organization. After all, she and Chuck were its founders.