July 26th, 2014 4:18pm
We had the privilege of being asked to perform at this year's TinkerBall in honor of the beautiful Jacquie Hirsch. Although Ali was at Jacob's Pillow, she sent a letter for me to read. I know I didn't do these heartfelt words justice. So please read this blog and know why we so strongly support Dancers Give Back and the Jacquie Hirsch for ALL Foundation.
In 2007, as a freshman at SUNY Geneseo, I first met Jacquie Hirsch. She was a senior at the time, and we met through mutual friends and through my frequent attendance at the IB where she was a bartender. I’ve always believed that people come into your life for reasons you may or may not understand at the time. I was immediately drawn to her positive, caring, beautiful energy, but I didn’t know upon first meeting her the amount of lessons she would teach me throughout our friendship. She became a role model for me, and the way she treated people is something l try to emulate to this day. Early in my sophomore year, I joined Sigma Delta Tau, a sorority at Geneseo, and became a part of Jacquie’s family line as her “little little sister”. To this day, that title or role, is one of the closest things I hold to my heart. It wasn’t long after when Jacquie got diagnosed with leukemia.
I came up with the idea of Dancers Give Back because I wanted to be able to help Jacquie and her family with medical expenses. Thankfully, my mom, AJ, my family, and the staff at the dance studio were completely supportive and did everything possible to make the first event happen. Jacquie passed away just a few weeks before our first event, but her spirit filled the room that day as families and kids from all over Western New York came out to dance, have fun, and be together. We had no idea what to expect, and thought we would be fortunate to raise even a little money. The first event ended up raising $13,000, and after receiving that money, the Hirsch’s approached us about using the donation to help start a research project in Jacquie’s name at Roswell Park Cancer Institute where she was treated.
Year after year, the event grew, as did the sum of money raised. In our third year, Ida Saki, who is now a member of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, came to teach some classes during the event. She had just recently lost her friend, Micaela White, to Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, and was an incredible supporter of us even before attending our event. It was the connection that we made with her that led us to where we currently are headed with DGB. Ida was inspired by what she became a part of, and knew it was my goal to spread this movement to go into other dance communities as well. We teamed up with Ida, her teacher Jessica Hendricks, and Sharon White to expand our organization into Dallas, Texas. This past January, we had our first DGB in Dallas, and over $20,000 was raised for pediatric cancer.
Just two months after Dallas, we had a one night event in Ottawa, Canada, where companies and studios put on a performance in a college theatre. One of my best friends, and a backbone of our entire organization, Julie LaMancuso, made this possible through her connection with Leeming Danceworks and Jess Shaw, who were in charge of putting the event together. In one night, around $15,000 was raised for the organization CandleLighters, which is similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the United States.
In total, Dancers Give Back has raised $205,000 in five years. Out of all the people that have ever attended an event, a very small amount of people have ever actually met Jacquie. One of my favorite things that people say is that even though they never had the opportunity to meet her, they feel like they know her after leaving at the end of the day.
The impact that she has had and continues to have on people knows no bounds. On a personal level, I feel that I will continue to realize the impact of her character on me for the rest of my life. I continue to learn from her and always try to do and be better. One of the most incredible experiences that I’ve had in my life, however, has been seeing her impact on people and communities that she’s never met. Because of her, Dancers Give Back formed and brought together a community of studios to start a movement bigger than any of us could have foreseen. Because of her, people in Dallas and Ottawa have become inspired to make a similar impact on their communities and organizations. Because of her and the doctors at Roswell Park, there is a great amount of progress in the search for a cure and for other forms of treatment of blood cancers such as A.L.L. It’s remarkable to think of the thousands of people that have dedicated their time and energy towards these projects across the continent because of Jacquie Hirsch.
I want to thank the Jacquie Hirsch for A.L.L. Foundation for all that they do, and for making this possible. Sharon, Torey, and TJ, I am so grateful to have your family of four in my life. Tonight is an excellent example of all that you continue to do to celebrate her memory in such a positive and loving manner. I love you all so much and am thankful everyday that you shared your daughter and sister with all of us. Please know that I will be doing a So-Co lime shot in honor of tonight’s event and Jacquie.
My thoughts and heart are with all of you who are here tonight. I already know it will be a huge success, but beyond that, I wish you all a night full of laughter, love, and memories…The good memories we continue to make with one another as we push towards a brighter future in cancer treatment, and the fond memories with Jacquie that we hold closest to our hearts. Thank you for your unwavering support, and most importantly, thank you for continuing to believe.
Co-Founder Dancers Give Back