Hip Hop for socks

The patrons of the Centre of Hope were the beneficiaries of a unique “sockraiser” held at the Shell Place Ballroom on December 6th. The brainchild of Miss Kelli Stewart, dance instructor at the Mi Dance Academy, the concept was first tried in Vancouver.

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“When I was living in Vancouver, myself and five friends starting a non profit organization called open heART,” said Stewart. “We all had a passion for helping people and community through art. We threw parties with a purpose, in a safe space with a positive message and community impact . Working in the downtown east side I came in contact with the homeless on a daily basis. I wanted to help where I could. When I was made aware of the necessity of socks I was determined to find a way to collect as many pairs of socks during one single night. I had made some great connections over the years with friends in the music world and I had an awesome boss at the pub I was working in at the time. So I asked him if for one night I could change the $5 cover charge to “a pair of clean socks”. We wanted to collect as many socks as possible, and that’s what we did.”

Like so many others, Kelli moved to Fort McMurray with a plan to stay for a period of time and then move on. Things haven’t turned out as she expected.

“It is now nearly four years later and I have absolutely fell in love with this magical place and the people; it is the place that I call my home,” she shared. “I did however feel like I was missing something, and it was the community outreach piece. Last year, I raised over $700 for the SPCA thanks to my amazing dancers by hosting a hip hop class by donation. I was blown away by the generosity of the people that came out.”

After hearing about the work of Centre of Hope, one of our United Way member agencies, Kelli pitched the idea of Hip Hop for Socks to Barbara Rex.

“My platform is dance, so I thought what a perfect way to connect the two worlds,” she said. “The dream I pitched to Barb was that I’d like to host a giant dance class for anyone and everyone. The only requirement would be the willingness to give back by donating a pair of new socks.”

“This kind of event has so many positive meanings to the Centre of Hope,” said Barbara Rex, Fund Development and Communications Coordinator, Centre of Hope. “ The obvious one is for our patrons benefiting from the socks that will be provided to them, especially in the winter months when the need for this item sky rockets. However, there are also other benefits such as the exposure we get and the ability to talk about the Centre of Hope: what we do in the community, who we do it for and why the need is so great. Additionally, it means a lot to the staff and patrons when someone gives generously of their time and effort to assist them. In the busy world we live in where there are always things happening, Kelli took a moment to think of those less fortunate and wanted to give of her talent and expertise to help, this is an immeasurable gift.”

Using the power of social media and the connections of her dancers, Hip Hop for Socks generated 1,112 new pairs of socks for the patrons of the Centre of Hope.

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“When Barb arrived, we had only been set up for about 15 minutes and the boxes were already halfway full,” said Kelli. “She looked into the boxes , then looked up at me and tears started to fall. In that moment, I knew that this was so much bigger than a hip hop dance class for socks.”

Succeeding beyond anyone’s imagination, the event might become a regular thing.

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“It was pretty clear that the event was about more than dancing,” said Kelli “It was about being a part of a bigger picture. I hope to make this an annual event and inspire the youth to continue to come out and help change the world, one pair of socks at a time.”

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“Socktastic!” declared Barbara. “There are no words to describe it, so I made up my own. Everyone in that room knew they were part of something amazing that day, something unique, fun and powerful. It was socktastic.”

 

Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online (www.middleagebulge.com) and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.