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Pouches' Community Corner

Darby's Dancers at Inspire Dance

Darby's Dancers is a dance program for dancers with special needs. There are currently 5 dance studios in 3 states who have Darby's Dancers programs. Inspire Dance in Fredericksburg is one of them. Read on to find out more about the program from Ashley Slemp, owner of Inspire Dance.

Share a bit about yourself.

I began dancing when I was 4 years old when the Junior Woman’s League in my hometown sponsored a dance teacher to come teach in the basement of a local business. It didn’t take long for me to know that dancing would always be a special part of my life.

I graduated from the College of Charleston with a BS in Accounting and Minor in Dance and was fortunate enough to dance with the Robert Ivey Ballet in residence at the College.

I began teaching when my husband was stationed in Okinawa. The Ballet instructor on base was going to be moving back to the US and my neighbors insisted that I take over the classes.

Why did you open a Darby’s Dancers chapter?

I have always believed that the Arts should be accessible to everyone. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, paint a picture, sing on the stage, dance, or participate in another form of visual or performing arts. In a world of standardized testing, creativity has been pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Dance is one thing I can offer. I want to provide a fun outlet for these children that also gives them an experience that will build their confidence. I want to provide an encouraging environment where the children can move and create. When I read about the mission the Jones’ had, I had to be a part of it. Being able to offer this class has been a blessing. During our class, we give each dancer the opportunity to dance across the floor one at a time. This is my favorite part of the week. Each girl has a smile that extends beyond the walls of our studio when she takes her turn to glide, turn, or leap across the room. Those smiles melt my heart.

Darby Emma Jones (1999-2013) was born to Patrick and Valerie Jones of Huntsville, Alabama. Born with Down syndrome, a heart defect and leukemia, Darby lived a life full of passion, kindness, bravery, optimism, perseverance and loyalty. She never met a person she did not like. She saw no differences in people regardless of their age, race, appearance, or disability. Darby was an avid dancer, musician, reader and writer. She never had a bad day, despite her challenges.

It is the belief of Darby’s parents that it would be Darby’s greatest desire to have children like herself enjoy dancing like she did. Darby’s Dancers was created to carry on Darby’s beautiful legacy and to bring joy to as many children with special needs as possible. Darby’s infectious smile and twinkling eyes are shining down from Heaven as she spreads her seeds of love and joy to all our future stars!

How large is the organization?

Darby’s Dancers began in Minnesota. Valerie’s friend asked to start a dance class in Darby’s memory. Valerie wanted Darby’s spirit and love of dance to continue and this summer she decided to expand Darby’s Dancers nationwide. She traveled to Minnesota, Virginia, North Carolina, and New Jersey to begin new chapters. I was the third studio to join. There are now 5 chapters.

How do families come into contact with you?

Currently, most families hear about us through word of mouth.

What is the process for receiving aid from Darby’s Dancers?

We have an extensive application online. We want to know as much as we can about our dancers so that we can make the 45 minutes they spend with us each week as positive and fun as we can. Once we receive an application, we make sure we have a volunteer coach for the dancer and get them dancing as soon as we can. Download an application here.

What has been the response of the community regarding the program?

The families at Inspire have loved having this program become a part of our dance family. Dancer’s Wardrobe jumped in to sponsor us immediately by donating dancewear for our first 10 participants. We were thrilled at their enthusiasm for the program. In addition, Dancer’s Wardrobe also contacted Capezio on our behalf and the dancewear company ended up donating dancewear for an additional 10 dancers.

It has been heartwarming to see how people and businesses immediately want to help out.

When we began in October, we had more volunteer coaches than we had dancers. The coaches who had not yet been paired with a dancer, continued to come to help out in the class. We have a great little community and look forward to growing in the years to come.

How many families have you helped?

We currently have 6 dancers in our class.

Tell us how volunteers can get involved.

We need adult and teenage volunteers. Adults are needed to help plan events and fundraisers. We have been so fortunate to have received so many donations that we have not even begun fundraising. Funds raised will go toward purchasing dancewear (leotards, tights, & shoes) for each of the participants. We will also use funding to purchase costumes for the dancers to wear in the annual recital in June. We hope to raise enough money to have at least 3 parties per dance year for our dancers and volunteers. Anyone interested in helping to plan and execute fundraisers or plan parties for our dancers can contact the studio to let us know.

Our teen volunteers serve as coaches to the dancers. Each dancer has a personal coach. Coaches come to every class and help the dancer with all the steps taught. Anyone interested in becoming a coach can download an application here
and bring it into the studio, send it in the mail, or email it to the studio.

How can local businesses get involved today?

We would love to see more local businesses become involved. A business can sponsor a dancer for $300 for the dance year. Businesses could also sponsor a party for the class.

Where do you see the program in the next 5 years? 10 years?

It is my hope that we can offer several different class times throughout the week for Darby’s Dancers. I would like to see our dancers have a group that could perform at various local events in Fredericksburg. I believe watching the joy in the faces of these children as they dance should be shared with entire community.

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Strong for Dom

Meet Margaret Beltran, the founder of Strong for Dom.

Share a bit about yourself.

My husband, Harvey and I both grew up in Stafford County. I am a registered nurse in the NICU at Mary Washington Hospital. And Harvey is pursuing a degree in Radiation Therapy. We have three boys, Dominic, Roman and Preston.

Why did you create Strong For Dom Foundation?

At 17months old, Dominic was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer. After fighting this disease for five years, we were told there were no more treatment options. Dominic passed away February 7th, 2013. He was just six years old.

The organization was created in his memory to spread awareness and raise funds for childhood cancer research.

How large is the organization?

Our board is made up of 8 volunteers.

Why is awareness for childhood cancer important?

Childhood cancer is important because it is the #1 cause of death by disease in children and adolescents in the U.S. The incidence of childhood cancer is on the rise. On average, 43 children per day or 15,780 children per year are diagnosed with cancer. Despite these startling facts, childhood cancer receives very little funding from the federal government. Less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) budget goes to fund childhood cancer research. Since 1980, only three new drugs have been approved to treat childhood cancer. Many of the survivors will suffer long term side effects of either the cancer or more commonly, the result of its treatment.

No parent wants to be told that there is nothing else that can be done for their child. We lost our son because we had no more treatment options. Through our journey we met some brilliant doctors. We believe the knowledge is there, but the funding is not.

Do you work with any hospitals? If so, how?

Strong For Dom Foundation funds innovative childhood cancer research to develop less toxic therapies. We are currently funding two clinical trials at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. We also do an annual toy drive and give to the Pediatric Oncology Clinic at VCU Hospital.

What has been the response of the community regarding the project?

Family, friends, neighbors and those that knew Dominic are our largest followers. They have donated their time and made contributions to our cause. Southpoint Quality Dental has also been a huge supporter for us as a sponsor, donor and helping us raise awareness.

We are still working on getting our name and mission known to the community. Our biggest obstacle is trying to explain that while we don't fund any clinical trials here locally (because there aren't any), the children with cancer in our community will benefit from the research.

How many families have you helped?

The research that we fund will help countless families in the future.

This year we launched our Super Fun Day program to provide treasured family time to children with cancer in the Fredericksburg region. We were able to give two families a Super Fun Day with season passes to amusement parks for the whole family!

Tell us how volunteers can get involved.

We are happy to have volunteers help us with our fundraising and awareness events. Or host their own!!!

How can local businesses get involved today?

There are sponsorship opportunities for our fundraising events, specifically our Super Hero Dash, a family-friendly fun run we host in the spring. September is a big month for our organization. We are always looking for business partners in the community to help raise awareness for childhood cancer.

Where do you see the project in the next 5 years? 10 years?

In the next 5-10 years, my hope is that our organization wouldn't be needed anymore because there would be a cure for childhood cancer.

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Spotsylvania Parent Resource Center

The Spotsylvania Parent Resource Center is open to all county families. The staff helps families through listening and problem solving. The Parent Resource Center also offers a resource library, information sessions for parents and school staff, and access to community agencies and organizations.

The resource library includes books and DVDs on parenting — discipline, single parenting, divorce — social skills, disabilities, study strategies, bullying and more. In addition, educational games to enhance math and reading skills are available. Materials may be selected at the PRC, or you can call and the staff will select materials and send them to your child's school for you or your child to pick up.

Visit the PRC website at www.spotsylvania.k12.va.us and click on the "Parents" tab for more information. Follow us on Twitter @SCSPRC.

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Fredericksburg Area Service League and Junior Cotillion

Share a bit about Fredericksburg Area Service League and the Junior Cotillion program.

Fredericksburg Area Service League (FASL) is an organization of women committed to enriching the lives of children in the Fredericksburg area.
In our 20 plus year history, we have donated over $650,000 and volunteered thousands of hours with various local organizations including Spotsylvania Head Start, Bragg Hill Family Life Center, and Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters. With the continued support from volunteers and growing recognition in the community we are able to support a variety of projects and organizations, which directly impact the lives of local children.

The Junior Cotillion program is one of our unique fundraisers. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall, Junior Cotillion is social dance and etiquette classes for middle school students. Junior Cotillion focuses on building confidence and preparing children for success by teaching practical etiquette for everyday situations. Our interactive instruction includes useful guidelines for engaging and continuing in polite conservations, introductions, phone and internet manners and safety, and table manners.

Why was the Fredericksburg Area Service League created?

FASL was formed in 1993 by a group of women interested in promoting volunteerism. Our founding members recognized the need in our community for a large organization of volunteers who were ready and able to develop and staff programs focused on children. They also saw the need to fundraise for organizations in the Fredericksburg area that benefited children.

How large is the FASL?

We currently have over 60 active members and are always looking for new members to join our organization. If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of area children, please visit our website, or contact Andi Sipp at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tell us more about Junior Cotillion program.

Junior Cotillion is a wonderful program designed to address twenty-first century manners. Etiquette today isn't all about using the correct fork at a dinner party, but being comfortable in a variety of situations. Junior Cotillion sets children up for success in life by teaching them how to interact in public. We practice proper introductions, how to engage and continue in conversation with new acquaintances, and discuss internet decorum in regards to social media. The dance instruction by Michael and Melissa Scott (owners of Strictly Ballroom), helps children become comfortable interacting with the opposite sex, how to lead and follow and of course partner dancing.

Why should I register my child for Junior Cotillion?

Our Junior Cotillion program reinforces all the manners and etiquette parents are already encouraging at home, and engages the students in an interactive environment with their peers. Everyone participates in role playing to practice the skills being taught in small groups. Our program builds confidence and teaches practical manners.

When and where is Junior Cotillion?

Junior Cotillion begins in September and classes meet once a month through January 2016. All of our classes are held at Strictly Ballroom in Fredericksburg and are on Sunday afternoons from 4-6pm. The final event in January is our Dinner Dance which combines all the skills practiced and learned throughout Junior Cotillion with partner dancing in a super fun evening at the Fredericksburg Country Club.

How do you register for Junior Cotillion?

Registration is open for the 2015-2016 season. You can register online by visiting our website (www.faserviceleague.com) or by contacting Kate Crowder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The fee for the six classes is $225 plus a $35 registration fee. All the proceeds from Junior Cotillion are used to support organizations in the Fredericksburg area such as Hospice Support Care/Camp Rainbow, Spotsylvania County Schools Head Start, and the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.

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Blessings in a Backpack

Share a bit about Blessings in a Backpack

Blessings in a Backpack is a national program that provides elementary schoolchildren who are on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year. Backpack food includes easy-to-prepare, ready-to-eat foods, like granola bars, juice boxes, mac and cheese, and oatmeal. Blessings in a Backpack is a 501 C (3) non-profit organization currently feeding over 76,000 children 800 schools in 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The program is a hybrid of private sector funding and public partnership carried out in public schools. Blessings in a Backpack is a 501 C (3) non-profit organization currently feeding over 76,000 children 800 schools in 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The program is a hybrid of private sector funding and public partnership carried out in public schools.

Why did you start a program at Hartwood Elementary?

Approximately 35% Hartwood Elementary students are enrolled in the Free/Reduced lunch program. The consequences of hunger are much more than a growling stomach. Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, increased hospitalization, lower IQ, shorter attention spans, and lower academic achievement. Children are fed during the school week by federal government programs, but we want to make sure they're getting nutritional meals over the weekend, too. I believe that it takes a village, and I wanted to start a program to ensure that our children had food on the weekends.

How did you start the program?

I contacted Blessings in a Backpack, spoke with our PTA and Principal to get their ok. We then began asking for donations. Through generous contributions from GEICO, Fredericksburg District of United Methodists, MAPGA, The Presbytery of The James, Ashton Innovations as well as other individuals, our first year of Blessings in a Backpack was funded!

How does it work?

The school designates individuals in need of the program, and those individuals are kept confidential. Each week I shop and pack bags for each enrolled student and deliver them to the school.

How can I help?

100% of donations are used to purchase food for the school that you designate. You can donate to Hartwood's program, by mailing a check to Blessings in a Backpack Bank Lockbox, PO Box 950291, Louisville, KY 40295 and designate Hartwood Elementary in the memo field, or log on to https://getinvolved.blessingsinabackpack.org/new-donation-page and enter Hartwood Elementary in the comment field.

OR if you'd like to start a program at your school contact Blessings in a Backpack at (800) 872-4366.

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Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (BACA) exists to create a safer environment for abused children by empowering children to not feel afraid of their world. Imagine how an abused child feels when a group of large bikers rides up to their house, inducts them into their club and then escorts them to court to testify against their abuser.

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