Lily wasn’t signed up for ballet class like her friend, so she sat in the corner of the dance studio — next to the friend’s mother — and watched as the tiny dancers practiced.
The first time the 7-year-old came and watched, Kim Luke, owner and director Artistic Endeavors Dance, didn’t mind. But when Lily continued to come week, after week, she wondered if there was more to the story.
Lily needed a place to go while her brother, who had been diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma — a cancer of the muscles — received chemotherapy.
Without hesitation, Luke offered Lily free tuition so she could dance, too. She even provided the ballet slippers and tap shoes.
Since that day about four years ago, Luke has offered similar lifetime scholarships to nine children with cancer or who have a sibling or parent battling the disease.
“These families battling cancer, so much of their financial resources are going to medical bills,” said Luke. She absorbs the tuition costs, which vary depending on the age of the child, the class and frequency of attendance. But anyone who has paid dance tuition knows it can run several hundred dollars annually.
Luke has another reason for offering the waivers: Her father, Charles Frankefeld, died of cancer shortly after she started her Salt Lake City business. Providing the free dance lessons is a way to memorialize him.
“My dad gave me $1,000 to start this business,” said Luke. “He died a year later and never got to see that I have 300 students.”
Luke’s Artistic Endeavors offers ballet, jazz and tap classes for all ages — from 6 months to adults — at five recreation facilities through Salt Lake County including the Salt Lake City Sports Complex, East Millcreek Community Center and Holladay Lions Fitness Center.
Once other parents find out about Luke’s generosity, they often hand over extra cash to help cover her costs.
At Christmas time, she asks parents to contribute to a scholarship instead of giving a gift. “You can only get so many lotions and candles,” she said.
The scholarship means a lot to the families, said Lorraine Traughber, the mother of Lily, who is now 11.
“It’s such a hard thing on a family,” she said during a recent telephone interview.
When Lily’s brother Luke, who is now in remission, was undergoing treatment, the girl didn’t understand what was going on, she said. So much attention was focused on getting him what he needed, it was nice for Lily to have something she could look forward to.
“It was wonderful for her and wonderful to have someone be so generous,” said an emotional Traughber. “It’s hard to bring to words what it meant.”