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Dancers across Salt Lake Valley raise funds for Utah Food Bank

Published January 30, 2013 6:41 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The girls of the Dance Project SLC may take the spotlight for their performances, but this time they're turning the attention to other kids as they help raise money for the Utah Food Bank.

The Will Dance for Kids Project, now in its second year, is a collaboration between 10 to 15 dance studios and the dance community across the Salt Lake valley.

"It's helping the kids learn that when they share their talents, they can share their talents and art to help other people," said Penny Broussard, founder and director of the Will Dance for Kids Project.

Broussard worked the dance scene for so long that after retiring a few years back, she started looking for a way to be involved again.

"For me I get to work with these great people, great dancers, but it's important to teach them to be more than dancers," Broussard said. "We have to teach them to be great people."

Last year, the Dance Project SLC raised $3,000, which contributed to the overall $15,000 raised by the project.

The proceeds benefit two Utah Food Bank programs designed specifically for kids. Kids Cafe offers hot and nutritious meals weekly, and the BackPack Program provides resources such as milk, tuna and peanut butter for kids to take away for the weekend or during school holidays.

Laila Hardman, director of the Dance Project SLC, located in Cottonwood Heights, said the cause speaks especially to the dancers in her studio because they tend to come from a more privileged background.

"This is a way for them to understand," she said. "They take a pair of dance shoes for granted, but this money goes back to kids that can't afford to eat."

The dancers put together a flash mob to kick off the fundraiser in October at Gardner Village, where they collected 2,430 pounds of food.

Dance Project SLC came up with ideas to raise money such as organizing a cooking class, Zumba dance class and a pilates class for parents. The studio also held a fairy tale princess class for preschool-age kids, in which dancers hosted a party with music and — of course — dancing.

"It got our kids involved in teaching other kids," Hardman said.

The studio is for girls ages 3 to 18. Monet Frank, a senior dancer, collected about $200 in donation from the workers at her dad's company. She said she's delighted to use her dance platform to fundraise.

"It's a great way to do what I love while giving back to the community," Frank said. "I asked all of his workers if they could donate even $5, and in return I got a lot more money than I was expecting."

Each studio moves to its own rhythm when it comes to raising money, but the studio tries to incorporate as much fun as possible and a bit of competition between the senior and junior dancers.

"It's been a really great experience, and the dancers are competing for a cause that's greater than themselves," said senior dancer Mikaila Hardman. "It's a competition that benefits everybody at the end of the day."

The fundraiser will culminate in a two-day competition involving many major dance studios at Taylorsville High School Mar. 1 and 2. Although there will be actual dancing within the competition, the winning studio will be the one that raised the most money.

"I love the idea that the dance studios come together," said Monica Matthews, director of marketing for the Dance Project SLC. "It took away the sense of competition in that way and put them in the same direction of moving toward the same goal."

Dancers are selling $1 Utah Food Bank donation cards, which are like raffle tickets that will be put into a drawing at the competition in March. The top prize includes two round-trip JetBlue flight tickets to anywhere. For every $1 donated, the Utah Food Bank provides $7 equivalent of food and services.

JetBlue is among the various sponsors that range from restaurants to car washes, which have donated numerous prizes for the drawing.

"A lot of girls have gone above and beyond to sell raffle tickets," Mikaila Hardman said.

Junior dancer Alexis Wilson sold a lot of raffle tickets and was one of seven girls at the Dance Project SLC who collected at least $500 by the end of 2012.

"I went to my family, friends and neighbors," Wilson said. "I told them that this helps kids who don't have food like we do, who don't have the same opportunities as we do."

As incentives, the top individual fundraisers can win scholarships to dance workshops and conventions.

Other studios participating in the Will Dance for Kids Project include Elite Academy, which was the prize winner last year, Park City Dance and Utah Dance Artists.

Broussard said it's especially important that this project allows kids to help other kids, and she hopes people will consider how important hunger issues is in Utah, especially for children.

"The statistics are pretty staggering," she said. "One in five kids [in Utah] don't know where their next food is coming from."

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Will Dance for Kids Project

Raised $15,000 last year for the Utah Food Bank's Kids Cafe and BackPack Program.

Dance studios will come together for a two-day competition held at Taylorsville High School on March 1 and 2.

$1 raffle tickets will be sold up to and including the days of the competition.

Numerous prizes in the drawing including the top prize of two round-trip JetBlue tickets to anywhere.

Utah Food Bank

For every $1 donated, the Utah Food Bank provides $7 of food/services.

Forty-four percent of monetary fund comes from the community.

One in five Utah children are unsure where their next meal will come from.