Taking dips and doing twirls for Youth Services

BRATTLEBORO — From the professional hoofer to the rhythmically challenged, local "celebrities" are donating their time and energy rehearsing for "Can Windham County Dance?," the gala and silent auction fundraiser for Youth Services' prevention, intervention and development programs for young people and families in Windham County communities. It will be held at SIT's International Center from 5 to 10 p.m., on April 28.

This year's gala is a new take on Youth Services' annual event. The previous year's annual gala was a murder mystery, and before that, there were jazz jubilees. This year, the fundraiser is modeled loosely after "Dancing with the Stars" as an innovative way of acquiring additional funding as dancers solicit sponsors, mostly through Facebook. Nanci Leitch, director of development and communications for Youth Services said at first she was holding her breath, worried that the extra solicitation may be a deterrent, but was pleased to see that many were right on board, and dancers have raised donations. Hopefully, more money will be raised this year than from past galas because the need is greater.

Leitch said, "Last year we hired a counselor as director of clinical services to provide intervention and prevention, something we have wanted to do for years, and to work internally to help us see what our needs are. To get youth connected with mentors we run a T-shirt printing business as a preventive program."

Executive Director Russell Bradbury-Carlin said it is not unusual for nonprofits to get the same amount of funding for 10 years or in some cases, take a cut. "Cost of living goes up, health insurance, etc. Also, we work hard to pay staff a livable wage that goes up, and we don't know how this administration's budget will translate for us. Like all nonprofits, we juggle that gap. We have seen an increase over the years and we are thinking strategically how to fill the needs in the community, targeting older teens and young adults for substance abuse prevention."

Leitch said, "Exciting things result from the fundraising. We couldn't do this if solely relying on federal and state funds, but the community is very generous." She said they received a lot of response from volunteer "celebrities," or recognizable names of the community, for a full spectrum of professions from many corners of Windham County.

Andy Reichman is donating his service to emcee the dancing from 7 to 8 p.m., interviewing each dancer who will tell their story before they hit the dance floor. The dancers have chosen partners with whom they feel comfortable, and are receiving training provided by volunteer dance instructors. Because there is such a wide range of experience, from the social dancer to the those that indulge every weekend, and even professional, it is not a competition per se, but purely for fun with top awards going to those who bring in the most money for Youth Services.

For instance Keith Lyman, the Brattleboro Area Middle School principal isn't exactly a dancer but saw this as a great opportunity to spend time with his daughter Chloe, while doing a good deed.

Lyman said, "I usually get picked on about my dancing, but I wanted to teach my own children the value of giving back to others and working hard to support local organizations." He also wanted to teach them to take risks — in a healthy way — and do something they might be bad at, to practice, work hard, and improve. He and Chloe have been training with instructors Ray and Lucinda Warren of "Shall We Dance?" and he is improving. He is confident he will be ready in time for the gala.

He said the Youth Services' involvement with many of the area families is critical to making our communities stronger. We have a lot of families at risk, in need of Youth Services. He has seen the need increase even in the four years he has been at BAMS.

"I'm honored to be part of the consideration as a local celebrity. Happy to represent our school," he said. "I'm stepping out of my comfort zone, but enjoying time with my daughter."

Chloe, who is 10 years old, said she agreed to dance with her dad because, "I thought it would be fun." She picked Katy Perry's "Firework" to do disco swing and has picked out a red dress with red sash, adorned with lace and diamond-like jewels — great for swinging. She said, "It's fun to spend time with Dad."

More experienced in dance, Matthew Peake and Bea Fantini, have been rehearsing the rumba. Peake, who was formerly a doctor in Bellows Falls has been pursuing the visual arts and dance for the last 11 years. Youth Services sought his help and partnered him with Fantini. Fantini, who retired from teaching, among other things, International Folk Dances, from SIT in 2017 is learning the rumba with Peake's instruction.

Fantini said, "It has been a lot of fun. I look forward to practice, and I got to meet Matthew. I am lucky to have him teach me. I like to dance and thought it was a good cause ... and I have a good teacher." Peake returned the compliment and said, " She follows beautifully and is receptive to learning new things."

Other dancers include Mollie Burke and Peter Gould who will be doing the salsa; Scott Phillips (a professional dancer) and Patrice Nolan doing the tango; Bill and Alberta (Bert) Knorr are doing west coast swing; and Jon Erik Brodhurst is performing hip-hop; plus a couple of surprise dancers .

For approximately 20 years, event director David Brown has been overseeing these galas with the support of a working board. Many were hosted by the Grafton Inn, then last year they tried something different with a Murder Mystery Wedding in Dummerston Center. When a board member saw a dance gala put on when in Florida it seemed like another great idea for Youth Services. It hasn't been hard to get volunteers.

He said, "Like all nonprofits we are always piecing together various funding and grants to meet our needs. We thank the folks who are doing it, something that is not necessarily in their comfort zone and thanks to the businesses and sponsors. A lot of the attendees are long-term supporters of the organization and it is a chance to socialize. It is also a good entry point to learn about its services."

He said they will do this again next year.

Businesses are helping too. Green Mountain Tent Rental is providing dance floor at a reduced rate, the DJ is charging less and SIT is doing what they can to help reduce costs so more money may go to the services.

Over 70 business and artisans have donated items for this year's silent auction, but be prepared to keep up bidding for your desired item(s) as there is always a flurry of last-minute bids nearing the end of the auction. Up for auction are items varied from high-priced getaways like South African safari or a Paul Stone painting "The Bridge," to gift certificates and arts and crafts.

It opens with a cash bar and silent auction then a sit-down formal dinner thanks to the generosity of SIT offering a great menu by chef Christopher Chadwick from 6 to 7 p.m. The dinner will be followed by the dance gala from 7 to 8 p.m., and from 8 to 10 p.m. there will be dancing for everyone with DJ Wayne Warwick of Be Heard Sound music spanning numerous eras.

Dinner will be followed by the Can Windham County Dance? show. Top prize will be awarded to the dancer who raises the most donations to support Youth Services critical safety net for area young people.

Youth Services Pacesetter sponsors are The Richards Group, GS Precision and Brattleboro Subaru. All-inclusive tickets for Can Windham County Dance? are $85 per person ($55 of which is tax deductible) at youthservicesinc.org/gala. Tickets need to be purchased before April 8. For more information call Youth Services at 802-257-0361 or email info@youthservicesinc.org. To make a reservation or to make a donation to sponsor your favorite "celebrity" dancer, visit youthservicesinc.org/gala.

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261

List of items up for silent auction:

Orchard Street Pottery Ceramic pottery; Clare Adams B & W block print; Zephyr Designs Gift certificate; Four Columns Inn Gift certificate for restaurant, spa, inn; TJ Buckley's Gift certificate; Windham Wines, two bottles, two glasses; The Gleanery Gift certificate; Duo's Restaurant Gift certificate; The Chesterfield Inn Gift certificate, dinner for two (exp 3-25-2019); Vermont Artisan Designs Gift certificate towards tuxedo rental; Candle in the Night Gift certificate; Natalie Blake Studio Ceramic tile art; Lighten up Studio Raku display vase; Judy Hawkins painting tbd; David Brown     pastel: Homes Bay, ME; Laura Zindel Design ; Penny Arms Oil painting: Cyndi Ferrante Birds in Flight print; Edel Byrne Glass Leaded stained glass panel; Haitian metalwork Haitian metal work: folk wall art; Paul Stone Oil painting: "The Bridge"; Plummer Sugar House quart of maple syrup; Big Picture Farm Gift box of goat milk caramels; T Breeze Verdant Marquetry necklace with shipwreck ebony and sea elements; Will Arderfer Metalarts metal art jewelry; Diane's Hair Express hair care basket; Williamsville Eatery gift certificate; Peter Havens gift certificate

Landmark Trust USA — Scott Farm Harvest Dinner seven-course harvest meal; Hardy Foard Catering Gourmet dinner for six delivered; 1868 Crosby House Romantic breakfast for two; Burton Car Wash & Detailing Services gift certificate towards four delux car washes; Lake Ridge Design pottery vase; Matt Tell Pottery Stoneware; Solinglass Handblown glass workshop for two; Bob Henry Bluebird house; Windham Flowers Orchid in hand-thrown pot; Archer Mayor Your name in Mayor's one of two next novels; Friends of the Sun Chimney and wood or pellet stove cleaning; Latchis Hotel and Theatre one night stay with two tickets for movies (not September to October); Grafton Inn One night stay with breakfast for two; Boston Brownstone Getaway, two-night Boston brownstone stay; Fred Homer and Deb Feiner weekend at Holland Pond, Vermont lake house June or Sept, no holiday weekends); Crest Studios handblown decanter and four tumblers; Teta Hilsdon Ceramics Pottery wine goblets; Caryn King Portraits animal portrait; Sports and Neuromuscular Massage Therapy gift certificate for one-hour massage; Beth Ann Agostini Fall Duck Island week, N.C.; Roger Smith Hotel Two night weekend in bedroom suite; Messenger Valley Pharmacy gift certificate; Weston Playhouse two tickets to fall 2018 performance; Berkshire Choral Festival four orchestra seats to concert of choice 2018; Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra four Elijah concert tickets: May 20 or next fall; Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery gift certificate; 3 Stones Mexican Mayan Cocina gift certificate; two Shippee Auto gift certificates oil change; Iron Arts garden trellis; Sidehill Farm gift box; KidsPlayce one-year unlimited family admission and party discount; Brattleboro Fire Department Tour of fire station, ride on fire truck for group of four; New England Center for Circus Arts gift certificate; Creating with Clay gift certificate toward classes; BMAC household museum membership; New England Youth Theatre two tickets for Sweet Charity; Boston Duck Tours two passes April, May, September, November; two Zulu Nyala South Africa Safaris for two; MASS MoCA two admissions; Scott Hausman+52:73 Instrument class.


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