Denise Neil

Actor's 'Growing Pains' behind him

I'm sure I'm not the only child of the '80s who wondered if she was hallucinating while driving recently. About a month ago, billboards started popping up all over Wichita featuring the still-baby-face of one of the biggest teen heartthrobs my generation has known. (That's what we called them in the Reagan era: teen heartthrobs.)

Mike Seaver! Mikey! Best friend of Boner! (May he rest in peace.)

It's not a hallucination, though. Kirk Cameron, who played Mike Seaver on the long-running sitcom "Growing Pains," is indeed coming to Wichita.

He's the keynote speaker at the Salvation Army's annual civic event, a dinner and awards ceremony scheduled for April 29 at Century II.

Cameron, who turns 40 this year, still acts. He recently appeared in the "Left Behind" series, and in 2008, he starred in the successful independent film "Fireproof," about a firefighter who finds God while struggling to keep his marriage together.

In the years since he left his best-known role, Cameron's life has found a new focus — Christian ministry. During his appearance in Wichita, he'll talk about life as a child star in Hollywood and about becoming a Christian in his later teen years.

Major Douglas Rowland, who is the Wichita City Commander for the Salvation Army, said that his organization always tries to find a Christian celebrity for its annual

dinner. Last year, it featured Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, the football player who inspired the 1993 film "Rudy."

The billboards for this year's event have elicited daily phone calls from Cameron fans wanting to know if they also were hallucinating, Rowland said with a laugh. He's sold nearly 500 tickets to the event and has more to sell.

The Cameron I remember graced the pages of Tiger Beat magazine during the duration of my fifth through eighth grade life.

The pinup picture I best recall featured Cameron with a come-hither stare — sexy yet safe enough for 14-year-olds. He wore colored, baggy pants, held up by white suspenders over a red tank top, a white Sonny Crockett jacket casually falling off his tan shoulders.

Though I was more of a Rob Lowe girl, I certainly could not fault my girlfriends who Scotch-taped Cameron's picture all over their bedroom walls, occasionally smudging them with their Dr Pepper-flavored lip gloss.

Children of the 1980s — allow me to give you permission to attend this event without feeling like a silly, overgrown Tiger Beat girl.

Tickets are only $35 — which includes dinner. And the event supports a good cause. Rowland and Co. will be recognizing a long list of individuals and organizations that have contributed to Salvation Army causes over the past year.

Just leave the lip gloss at home.

If you go


What: The star of "Growing Pains" will speak at the Salvation Army's Annual Civic Event and dinner.

Where: Century II

When: 6 p.m. April 29

How much: Tickets are $35 and include dinner. Organizers would like all reservations to be in by Wednesday. They'll accept them later if they still have space. Call 316-263-2769.