A pair of St. Jacobs service clubs has decided to step up and take the lead, allowing local youth to get footloose – but there will be no dirty dancing.
The St. Jacobs Lions have partnered with the St. Jacobs Optimist Club to organize youth dances for students in Grades 5-8.
Dennis Lougheed, chair of the organizing committee, said lots of other groups hold youth dances, but the age range is much wider. A former high school teacher, Lougheed said it’s a long span even between Grades 9 and 12.
“An 11-year-old kid who’s sitting in Grade 5 could very well be attending a dance where’s there’s 17- and 18-year-old kids there. That struck me as not being a very healthy thing.”
The new program, Kids2Kids, has been in the works for more than a year. Lougheed first got the idea from some Lions members from Grantham, near St. Catharines. The Grantham Lions host a series of very popular dances for elementary students twice a month from September to May.
Lougheed hoped they might be able to start with one dance a month, but members of the two service clubs were concerned about taking too much on. Instead, they’re going to start with four dances this year and see if there’s interest in holding them more often.
The groups’ concerns centered around the number of volunteers needed to staff each dance (15 or 16) and addressing safety issues.
“To do this kind of a program, you have to be able to convince parents that the environment they’re going to trust their kids in has to be very secure. They have to be confident that when that kid walks in the door, he or she is going to be well-supervised, they’re going to be safe, the behaviour is going to be appropriate,” Lougheed said.
To ensure the safety of the children attending, kids will have to be accompanied through the doors by an adult and will not be allowed to leave the building until they are picked up by an adult.
The St. Jacobs program will be employing the same DJ used by the Grantham Lions.
“He is great with this group of kids, he knows the music, and his sense of what is appropriate is stricter than mine,” Lougheed said.
The Lions have added a link to their website, www.stjacobslions.org, where parents can find rules, answers to commonly-asked questions and a form to submit any other questions they have.
The Lions have sent flyers home with kids at elementary schools in St. Jacobs, Conestogo and Elmira, but the dances aren’t restricted to Woolwich youth. Lougheed said they decided it’s more important that students are within the age limits, not where they’re from.
The first dance is scheduled for Nov. 6, with the next three happening in January, April and June. Admission is set at $5, with snacks available for $1 each. Organizers are anticipating that the dances will be successful enough to have funds left over after startup costs are covered. In that case, Lougheed said, the extra money will go toward children’s support services in the area.
“If we make money off the kids, the money will go back to the kids in some way shape or form.”