Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Sara Battaglia | Dancing for Donations
It didn’t take long for Sara Battaglia to realize where her life was headed. At a young age, the Port Charlotte, Florida native quickly developed an interest in two activities: dancing and helping others.
The love for dance began when she was eight. The passion for community service developed when she would tag along with her mother, Denise, who among her numerous charity works, directed a mom’s club that gave back to those in need.
“My mom always taught us to be kind to other people and to give back to the community and volunteer,” says Sara. “Since then, I have always wanted to find a way I could help kids and also give back to organizations that mean a lot to me and to others. I found a way to do both.”
Armed with training from School of Russian Ballet, Sara’s twin passions were manifested with the birth of what is now a full-fledged 501(c)3, Dancing for Donations.
“I had been teaching dance all around the Tampa Bay area since I was 16 and after an injury, I had a little extra time,” says Sara. And so, she reasoned, it was time to start giving back.
“It began when we asked people to take a class in exchange for a donation to other charitable organizations like Feeding Tampa Bay and the Humane Society,” recalls Sara. “We gave to different charities each month. Then it kinda blew up to what it is today, and we became our own non-profit and developed our own mission.”
That mission is to make dance and the arts more available to people of all ages and abilities in the Tampa Bay Area and to be charitable to the community. Recently, Dancing for Donations assisted an organization dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking. Sara has made sure the mission also includes teaching those with special needs and children in foster care.
“That came from one of our students who is on the autism spectrum,” says Sara. “She wanted to take one our classes. I was like ‘Why wouldn’t we let her take one of our classes?’ Then the word spread that we were inclusive as well. So, we made it part of our mission.
“A lot of programs for kids with special needs are designed just for them,” says Sara. “Our programs are all inclusive, so we have kids with special needs alongside their typical peers. We don’t separate them. So they might have a volunteer working with them but we are all in the same class. There are not a lot of programs like that.”
Sara sees value in that arrangement for all of her students. “We think it is important for the kids who are typically functioning to learn to accept others and not think of them as weird or different,” she explains.
Dancing for Donations relies on parents and older students to help with the teaching and to volunteer to help run their other activities.
“All of my students really inspire me,” admits Sara. “They are not only excited to dance, but excited to learn and excited to see their friends and to see their teachers and to be inspired by their teachers. I just love to see their love for dance grow. I have always wanted to give back to the community and being a dance teacher, I really never made enough money to be able to give back monetarily. With Dancing for Donations, I am able to give back with my time and through the organization we’re able to donate funds as well.”
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation
For more information on Dancing for Donations, or to volunteer, visit Dancing4Donations.org.