She got her start at the Boys & Girls Club. Now it’s their turn.

Apr 19, 2023

Fairfield County Dancers to Take Center Stage for Ballet Superstar Misty Copeland

“Once we break a barrier or shatter a glass ceiling, we make it possible for other dreamers to enter the space that once excluded us and thrive … we ‘dance’ for all those who came before us and the many who will hopefully come after us.” – Misty Copeland, from her memoir “The Wind at My Back”

A group of young local dancers will fulfill a performance dream many never imagined possible when they take the stage on April 27 at the annual luncheon for the Fund for Women & Girls.

The Wakeman Cheer team, a cohort of 15-20 girls from Wakeman Boys & Girls Club, has been working hard to prepare for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform for Misty Copeland, the groundbreaking ballet dancer and keynote speaker at this year’s luncheon.

The dancers — all of whom are between third and eighth grade — have been practicing twice weekly for months to rehearse their coordinated cheer-dance routine.

“It’s important our girls see who it’s possible to become and what they can accomplish,” Wakeman Boys & Girls Club’s CEO Sabrina Smeltz said. “Copeland is a role model as a dancer, a woman and a racial equity leader. We’re helping lay the groundwork for how they think about themselves, and their futures.”

Sabrina smeltz,
Wakeman Boys & Girls Club

They will have a chance to show off their hard work to Copeland — the first Black Principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre — at the Fund for Women & Girls’ 25th annual benefit luncheon. The event, hosted by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation (FCCF), celebrates the work of the community to empower women and girls realize their potential – a mission both Copeland and the Boys & Girls Club share.

Like many of Wakeman’s student dancers, Copeland first experienced the arts at her local Boys & Girls Club. Growing up as one of six in a single parent home, she spent most of her time after school participating in Club programs while her mother worked.

Here, she took her first dance lesson – an experience she says was foundational to her success.

Today, she is working to pay it forward by supporting events like the FCCF Fund for Women & Girls luncheon and investing in equitable dance education through The Misty Copeland Foundation, which she founded in 2021.

Through the foundation, Copeland aims to provide access to dance classes to youth in underrepresented communities – and pursue social justice through the arts. The BE BOLD program, a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of America, does just that, offering free weekly classes a two community-based sites in New York City.

Eventually, she hopes to expand the BE BOLD program to Boys & Girls Club sites around the country, helping provide equitable dance education to students of all backgrounds.

As part of the FCCF luncheon, the Wakeman Cheer members will interview Misty about her life and career path. The student-led discussion will focus on what inspired Copeland to pursue ballet, challenges she’s faced and her experience as a Boys & Girls Club student.

“Equity-driven women leaders like Copeland can be a strong source of inspiration, especially for young girls of color,” Director of the Fund for Women & Girls Mary Grace Pagaduan said. “I hope meeting and performing for Copeland will empower these dance students —many of whom face similar circumstances as Copeland did as a girl — to pursue their dreams.”

The Fund for Women & Girls, a community impact initiative at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, aims to advance gender equity and invest in sustainable solutions to support women and girls across Fairfield County. Since its inception in 1998, the Fund has helped thousands of local women and families improve their lives by creating pathways to greater economic security.

The Fund’s annual benefit luncheon will be held on April 27 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Greenwich Hyatt in Old Greenwich. It will also include the 2023 Anne S. Leonhardt Award presentation, an annual award that recognizes a philanthropic visionary working to promote women’s economic progress and equity. This year’s honoree is Emily Tow, President of the Tow Foundation.

The 2023 luncheon theme is “Change in Motion,” a theme which reflects the evolution of Copeland’s ballet career and role as an arts activist – as well as our nation’s ongoing pursuit of social justice.

Join us in person at the Greenwich Hyatt or virtually via our live stream for our Fund for Women & Girls 2023 Luncheon! Get inspired by keynote speaker Misty Copeland, learn about our newest signature initiative, and support women and girls across Fairfield County in achieving their best lives. Learn more and get tickets.