Recently, Dance Magic was fortunate enough to host 149 young people who are eager to see change in their community. You may have heard of the various 100 Men and 100 Women Who Care chapters popping up around Canada and even internationally to bring large groups of positive people together to initiate positive local action in their own hometowns. For anyone who is familiar with the amazing families of Dance Magic, it will come as no surprise that our dancers aren’t interested in waiting around until they are grown men and women to initiate change – they want change NOW. Out of this enthusiasm was born Red Deer’s very own 100 Kids Who Care chapter. Actually, to be exact the group currently consists of 149 Kids Who Care and it is evident that that number will continue to grow.
I caught up with Christine Slaymaker this past week, owner of Dance Magic Studio and the chief organizer behind 100 Kids Who Care here in Red Deer. I asked Christine to paint a picture for me of what the day was like for the participants, volunteers, and organizers.
When the kids first arrived at the meeting, they had a half hour to float around the room and check out some of the amazing displays put together by 15 of the 23 local charitable organizations involved in the project. Many of the booths were highly interactive and geared towards helping the children understand and appreciate their various causes. For example, the Medicine River Wildlife Centre brought the famous Otis the Owl to hang out with the kids, while the MS Society encouraged passersby to don bulky oven mitts and scratched up goggles and to then engage in mundane tasks as a little taste of what life is like living with Multiple Sclerosis. Christine noted how connected all of the children were and how eager they all appeared to learn, interact, and engage.
Once everyone had a few minutes to mingle and meet with representatives from different organizations, they were then given about 45 minutes to get creative, active, and build new friendships. A number of games and activities were organized ahead of time including giant jenga, Dance Dance Revolution, free time on bouncy castles, as well as craft tables with some supplies donated by Canadian Tire South.
Once everyone had ample opportunity to burn a bit of energy and excitement, organizers slowed things down and began the more formal portion of the program. An open floor discussion began on how each and every person in the room can start making small, yet important differences in their homes, schools, and neighbourhoods. Ideas took flight and flew around the room. Kids shared all kind of ideas from helping neighbours shovel their walks in the winter to assisting those who may be less physically able than themselves with groceries in the store parking lot. Participants were split into groups of 10 and assigned a youth leader. The group leaders had a chance to connect with their groups and have been given the role of remaining in contact with their group members in the coming months regarding the group’s development and growth. Not only is this a great chance for younger participants to develop a special relationship with a new person, but it is an amazing opportunity for these older youth to realize their potential as role models and leaders in their communities.
Next, two very special youth, Kayden Nivens and Emily Parker-Ristau, shared their own personal stories of how they, both at a very young age, took charge of big ideas and with the help of those around them, were able to see their ideas come to fruition. The audience was inspired and captivated by the words that their peers spoke.
Lastly, 3 organizations were short listed and were given the opportunity to “pitch” their causes. Suicide Information and Education Services, along with the MS Society and the SPCA addressed the participants before the votes began to roll in. Once all 149 members had a chance to vote and ballots were counted, it became clear that a hefty donation of $1490.00 would be donated to the SPCA.
As the day came to a close, Christine was almost in disbelief at the amazing success of the first meeting. To an Express reporter, she exclaimed the following:
“From the moment the kids walked through the door they were engaged, connected, and ready to learn! It was incredible to see so many youth in our community come together to make positive change in their community. There were kids ranging from 4 -18 years so the blend of ages was a really nice touch. The younger children had many to look up to and the older kids played a great role in leadership. The kids were inquisitive and genuinely interested in learning about the charities that were in attendance. Each and every booth had a gathering of children armed with questions and a keen desire to make positive change in our community. We had an open floor discussion about ways the kids can extend this reach beyond just our meeting and they were able to come up with some fantastic ideas. From random acts of kindness like shoveling someones walk or helping them to their car with groceries, to fundraising efforts, community clean up projects and volunteer opportunities. Many of the kids left with excitement to encourage friends and family members to join our next meeting. We are hoping to one day be Red Deer’s 500 kids who care… and counting! I feel incredibly proud to have been able to be a part of this event. Red Deer’s youth are inspiring, creative, and passionate about making a difference. Truly young leaders of tomorrow. Our future. CHANGE MAKERS! “
100 Kids Who Care is not about to slow down. Our numbers are already growing and our next meeting is scheduled for the new year. If you or anyone you know is a youth who cares about living in a safe, helpful, kind, giving, wonderful world, why not join us?! For more information, check out our website at www.reddeerdancemagic.com .