Infectious volunteerism


Last Thursday was a special evening. Sequins glittered, lights twinkled, music blared and dresses whirled. The crowd sat in awe as familiar faces took to the floor in a show of agility, dexterity and elegance.

Hundreds came out to see the sixth annual Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring event at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston. The yearly gala benefits the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, which pairs adult mentors with Rhode Island youth.

The attendance of the fundraiser was a testament to the importance and far-reaching impact of the program.

But what was more impressive than the hefty turnout was the effort put into the event in the previous months.

Six Rhode Island “celebrities” donated spare moments from their busy schedules to learn and rehearse ballroom dance routines. Since January, the six stars have been practicing at Dancin’ Feelin’, devoting themselves to a foreign art for a good cause. For some, it came naturally, and for others, it was a struggle. But at the end of the day, they were all doing it for the same reason: Rhode Island’s youth.

When they came out onto the dance floor last Thursday evening, it was clear that despite the nerves, the struggles and the second thoughts, each was proud of themselves for conquering their individual challenges, and for giving back to something greater than themselves.

But the stars weren’t the only ones volunteering their time. The professional instructors and dancers all stepped up to the plate, too. Each met with their partner and taught them the steps, helping their “star” to shine the brightest. They, too, took pride in their performances and in their charitable contributions.

Then, of course, there are the volunteers who lie outside of the bounds of last week’s event. They are the mentors, the people without whom the Partnership could not exist.

There are currently 4,601 volunteer mentors working with youth throughout Rhode Island, and each mentor meets with their child for an hour a week. It may not seem like much time, but it adds up, and makes a significant difference. According to the Partnership, children with mentors are less likely to skip school, abuse alcohol or drugs, and engage in violence.

The essence of volunteerism lies in every facet of the partnership, from their daily outreach to their fundraising efforts. People are willing to step up and offer their time for a good cause.

This year’s event raised $77,000, a testament to the infectious power of volunteerism – give of yourself, and others will give, too.


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