$50K donation keeps curtains open for school show

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FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Budget woes in the Ferguson-Florissant School District left an annual show put on by elementary and middle school students in limbo, but the performance will go on thanks to a $50,000 donation from a crowdfunding website.

The site, GoFundMe, pitched in the cash to help support the program called Celebrate Children, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1GYZ3uf ) reported. But the program's future still remains on shaky ground since a budget crisis cut district funding for it.

The show with the theme "Dancing Our Dream" is a chance for students to dance at least one more time, said the program's co-founder Betsy Anderson. It will showcase popular dances throughout the years and will be held on two days this week at the Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

More than 150 elementary and middle school children practiced with a live band on a recent Saturday. Anderson pointed out different participants to the newspaper during the rehearsal — the boy with autism who knows every single routine including the ones he's not in and the keyboardist in her 80s who has played in each performance since the program started 19 years ago.

The program, inspired by others in New York City and Austin, Texas, is based on the belief that through hard work, courage, dedication and teamwork, children can develop necessary skills to be successful in all areas of life.

"All they have to do to be successful in this is want it in their heart and be willing to try," Anderson said. "What that child learns on stage is — I'm worth it. It changes them forever."

Celebrate Children was left out of the district's budget for the next school year, but programs like it are part of the reason officials established a foundation last fall, said spokeswoman Jana Shortt.

She said organizers hope the district can continue the program with the support of the foundation and other fundraising.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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