Photo Credit: Sandi Duncan
Naturally, members of the dance community regularly find their calendars filled with dance conventions and competitions. Because of this, this tight-knit community is often too busy to utilize its comradery to help the those in need. This is the very reason why JR Linden, Sandi Duncan, and Melissa Hoffman joined forces to form Dancers at Heart. Dancers at Heart is a non-profit that provides dancers with collaborative opportunities to share their talents in an effort to raise funds benefiting the health and wellness of children in need. The latest endeavor by Dancers at Heart, The Blanket Brigade, seeks the dance community’s help to send blankets to those who lost everything in the California wild fires.
The idea for Dancers at Heart originated in October 2012 with Operation Miles to Smiles, which provided handmade fleece blankets and other necessities to the people of Breezy Point, New York who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Linden, Duncan, and Hoffman were inspired to give back to this community after seeing the devastating impact of the hurricane and used social media to help network and collaborate with other dance schools in the New England area.
Photo Credit: dancersatheart5678.org
In 2016, Linden was asked to run the Boston Marathon to raise funds for four specific research projects benefiting Boston Children’s Hospital. “Within this first year, Sandi, Melissa, and my wife Cathy, put on several events that involved the dance community and were able to raise $26,000. My heart was full to know that we were able to not only raise money for critical research projects but also teach the dance community that dance is so much more than winning medals,” said Linden. In 2017, he ran again raising over $36,000, and it was then that he knew he wanted to utilize his dance background to do more for children in need.
In the summer of 2017, Dancers at Heart was born. The first official fundraiser in Oct. 2017 brought together over 20 area dance studios, 300 dancers, and sold out a theater of 700 seats raising more than $20,000. “It drives me to educate our young dancers that there are so many ways to give back using their talents and abilities,” commented Linden. With the goal of providing dancers with opportunities to give back to the community, Dancers at Heart became an official recognized nonprofit in the state of New Hampshire in 2018.
Due to the widespread devastation in California right now, Dancers at Heart thought it was the perfect time to bring back its first initiative and call it The Blanket Brigade. The main goal for The Blanket Brigade this year is to send 200-300 blankets to California area fire victims.
Photo Credit: Sandi Duncan
Dancers at Heart is also challenging dance studios nationwide to host blanket making parties in their communities. The organization’s main studio, Melissa Hoffman Dance Center, is hosting a party on Friday, Dec. 28 from 6-8 p.m. The studio asks participants to bring their own fleece, scissors, friends and family to create least 20 blankets to be shipped to the west coast. Also, if your studio plans to host its own blanket party, Dancers at Heart will pick up the blankets and mail them out.
With all the negativity in the world today, the people involved with Dancers at Heart are so proud that the dance community can come together to be there for those in need. Often, dancers are consumed with the competitive aspect of dancing, but this nonprofit gives them an outlet to take a break from the studio and get involved in their community.