"Dancing" It Forward: Couple's Wedding Reception Helps Kids

Donations go to a ballroom dance program in a school district with challenges.

When Michael and Mara Haynie started talking about getting married, they knew they didn't want a big wedding. They did want a big celebration with their friends in Pittsburgh's ballroom dancing community.

What resulted was an event that not only celebrated the couple's marriage, but raised money to support a kids' ballroom dancing program at a struggling school district in their community that could definitely use a boost.

The couple's actual wedding was a small backyard affair on June 15.

Their celebration dance was held Saturday at the municipal center in Cranberry, Pa., north of Pittsburgh. About 100 people from nearly every ballroom studio and group in the city participated in some way. Jimmy Page of Night and Day Studio even officiated a "ceremony" where Michael and Mara vowed to be each others' dance partner for life!

Ballroom enthusiasts from all over the area shared their love for dancing by donating to a student dance program.

At last count the event raised $4400, which will be donated to the after-school ballroom dance program in the Woodland Hills School District , east of Pittsburgh.

"We had no trouble coming up with the idea to raise money for the kids program," said Mara. She and Michael know Amanda Wolf, a professional dance instructor who works with the Woodland Hills kids. "We'd heard about all the folks helping out to keep the program going," explained Mara. Funds are tight, so professional instructors from the Pittsburgh dance community volunteer to teach, the city's two ballroom groups USA Dance Pittsburgh Chapter and Pittsburgh Ballroom donate money when they can, and district staff put in time on costumes, venues and transportation for the kids to perform.

Dance instructors Amanda Wolf and Leah Kelly thank the crowd for their donations.

"The event was a huge success because of the time, energy, and collaboration of so many in the ballroom dance community. We couldn't have done it without them."

Mara, who is a former elementary school teacher (and, full disclosure, my sister), wants the Woodland Hills kids to be involved in the creation of a budget and contributing ideas for how to spend the money. "I think its a great way to expand the program - to help the kids realize the value of what they are being offered, and to take ownership in their learning."

If you'd like to help fund the Woodland Hills ballroom dance program, Mara has set up a Facebook fundraiser page where you can donate. Click here.

Stay tuned. We plan to head to Woodland Hills with our cameras when school is back in session this fall to see what the program is all about!

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