Dance, exercise and helping children in need are three things that make people feel good, so why not combine the three?
On Sunday morning, more than 100 people gathered at The Centre to dance and raise money at the Santa Clarita Valley International Program’s first “Dollars For Desks” Zumba fundraiser. For $20, or $30 for a VIP spot in the first two rows, participants were given a three-hour Zumba class with 16 different instructors.
The fundraiser was held to benefit the Philippine city of Sariaya, which has been one of Santa Clarita’s sister cities since 2003. Jocelyn Reyes, Santa Clarita Valley International Programs board member and the organizer for “Dollars For Desks,” said she got the idea for the fundraiser when she visited Sariaya last year.
“I went home to the Philippines and met with the mayor of Sariaya and I asked him what else the city needed, and he showed me that a lot of the schools don’t even have chairs,” Reyes said. “The kids at the schools have to either bring chairs from home or write on the floor. I love dancing and to build a program like this in Santa Clarita, where we have over 4,500 Filipinos, that can make a difference is incredible.”
Reyes was able to find a company in the Philippines that would manufacture plastic desk chairs, which are easy to clean and would deter termites, for the city for $17 each. The aim of the “Dollars For Desks” campaign is to provide monetary assistance to help Sariaya meet its goal of a thousand desks.
Aaron Lopez, one of the instructors who volunteered to help lead the Zumbathon, said he agreed to help because he knew how much impact Reyes has on the community and wanted to support a cause she believes in.
“The Zumba community has grown so much and we had here people from Sylmar and Carson, so it was really great to see all the different styles,” Lopez said. “I think education is the most important thing in the world and both my parents are teachers. I don’t think we put enough emphasis on education in the world and right now we’re educating our future leaders, so anything that helps benefit that, I’m down to be a part of.”
Santa Clarita’s sister cities program partners with cities in countries like Ecuador and the Philippines for cultural exchange, youth engagement and charity donations. The program is also looking to expand into Japan next year, according to Reyes.
Mykka Piantanida has been doing Zumba for a few months and invited and her friend Jacqueline Gil when she saw the event on Facebook.
“I enjoy Zumba because it’s fun, the instructors are really nice and have great personalities and there’s a lot of good energy here,” Piantanida said.
“I like coming to Zumba fundraisers because they’re inspirational in that I can have fun and help out a good cause at the same time,” Gil added. “I love the cause to support the sister cities because I’m grateful to have as much as I do in this country and it’s important to help those who don’t have as much.”
Reyes also invited a special guest to the fundraiser, international trainer and “Zumba icon” Andreu “Dance Fever 3D” Jones to help lead the final dance routines of the fundraiser.
“Anyone of any age or demographic can come together to do Zumba, and I think what makes it such a good fundraiser is that Zumba’s underlying theme is a fitness program but it’s more of a community,” Jones said. “It’s people who want to do good and spread joy and happiness in spite of all the craziness going on in the world. I always come out to community events, which is how I met Jo, and I wanted to help out today as two pure individuals coming together for a pure cause. Education is always a barrier in impoverished countries, and without tools, you can’t properly educate. These students should feel like students when they go to school and how can you do that without the appropriate supplies?”