To see firsthand the impact they are making, selected contestants visited and performed for residents of the Cartersville nonprofit’s Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter Wednesday. While proceeds of “Every Child’s a Star” will fund cosmetic improvements for the shelter facility, the overall event will raise awareness in the organization’s efforts to assist in the prevention and treatment of child abuse.
“It brings it home,” Advocates for Children President and CEO Patty Eagar said, referring to Wednesday’s gathering. “Everybody’s a little bit uncomfortable when an evening like that starts out, because they don’t know each other and they sort of feel like everybody’s just looking at each other. But by the end of the evening, they were all chatting and realizing the things that they have in common. They all go to the same schools. The kids who live here were dancing and being silly and having fun with the kids who were performing.
“It is kids helping kids. It always has been. The children who are in the show are expected to sell at least 10 tickets to their friends and family. ... They know that they’re not only practicing to be on stage but they’re participating in what may be one of their very first fundraisers as a very young person and hopefully we’ll instill some philanthropic values in them over time. Then the younger adults who are helping to organize it and work behind the scenes, some of them have actually graduated from being in the show and they’re now doing the organizing and that’s really wonderful too. They’re keeping up the tradition and being good role models for the younger kids coming up.”
On March 21, the talent show will begin at 7 p.m. at the Woodland High Performing Arts Center, 800 Old Alabama Road in Cartersville. During the contest, participants will compete in seven categories: kindergarten through second grade individual, third through fifth grade individual, sixth through eighth grade individual, ninth through 12th grade individual, group primary/elementary, group middle/high school and bands. Along with bragging rights, each category winner and an overall victor will receive a trophy for their accomplishments.
In the individual categories, the contestants will include: kindergarten through second grade — Katie-Dru Spinner, Gia Ham, Chaunsey Royal, Elyse Tindall and Talia Sultan; third through fifth grade — Logan Bennett, Abigail Evans, Grace Avera, Brady Bearden, Mallory Branyon, Alfred Chege and alternate Grace Bentley; sixth through eighth grade — Savannah Hawkins, Omaga Arnold, Natalee Castro, Kaitlyn Hanks, Ericson Mosley and alternate Jeanelle Garcia; and ninth through 12th grade — Skyler Palacios, Kayla Rowland, Sarah Garber, Kendra Simmons, Lauren Roberson and alternate Kaitlynn Millsapps.
The remaining categories consist of group primary/elementary — The Flying Girls: Mary Knox Dawson, Mason Cline; Made to Roar: Kate Hacker, Ava Flemons; Unnamed group: Carmen Jordan, Savannah Humphreys; group middle/high school — KDCK: Derrick Chapman, Kaitlin Kimsey; Count Nine: Caroline Allen, Ansley Fain; Hanson Sisters: Elizabeth Hanson, Georgia Hanson; Shelsea & Abigail: Shelsea Palacio, Abigail Brown; and alternate Disney Duo: Autumn Townsend, Kendalyn Millsap; and bands — Revolution: Cameron Darnell, Lindsey Craven, Matalyn Santini, Hannah Everett, Justin Beringause; The Chosen Ones: Carson Hill, Tripp Williams, Amber Rogers, Sydney Shultz; and Isaac Streetman & the Georgia 2: Isaac Moore, Trevor Steele, Isaac Streetman.
The upcoming benefit will be directed and produced by Regina Gilbert, who has been involved with “Every Child’s a Star” since her daughter, Mary-Clayton Gilbert, directed the production in 2012. Having seen the impact that a student director could have on the show, the benefit continues to seek input from young adults, with Kristy Montgomery, Daniel Craven, Abbey Hufstetler, Thomas Gilbert and Brooke Rucker joining Regina Gilbert, Myra Hufstetler, Cindy Farmer, Eva Jo Craton and Daneise Archer on the event’s steering committee.
“Regina wanted to get some younger voices involved, so she asked me and I was all to happy to agree to do it,” said Montgomery, 24, who also is serving as the event’s stage manager and assistant director. “I’ve just heard so many amazing things about this program and what it does for Flowering Branch and all the ways that it involves the kids in doing what they love and helping others in the process.
“So I thought it was just a great opportunity to get involved in Cartersville and to get involved with the arts, which is something I’m so passionate about personally. ... It’s been so overwhelming to see how talented these kids are,” she said, adding some of the performers will include instrumentalists, vocalists, dancers and gymnasts. “... They’ve got such great skill sets that are all so different and varied and are just so amazing to see on stage. I’m really excited for the performance to happen.”
Another young voice working behind the scenes is Regina Gilbert’s 16-year-old son, Thomas Gilbert. As a member of Bartow 5, he was a part of the show’s overall winning act in 2013. Along with serving on the steering committee, the Cartersville resident also is overseeing the benefit’s Facebook page, coordinating the group category and assisting in the creation of a video for this year’s production.
“[Winning] was an awesome accomplishment, but also I just had a great time being involved with the program,” Gilbert said. “Being able to get to know the Advocates for Children kids and what the organization does for them is just also a great experience. In my next two years of high school, I hope to become more and more in charge of the event. Next year, I hope to have a bigger part in the steering committee and possibly one day even becoming the director of this [event].
“... When you’re raising money at an event and for an organization, it really helps [when] you get to know what it is that you’re raising the money for. So when we got to visit the shelter two years ago and then [Wednesday] getting to meet the kids and see what they go through and what it’s like over at the Flowering Branch, it really helps to understand, ‘OK, so this is what we’re raising money for’ and it motivates you to want to be able to do more.”
This year, the talent show will aim to generate at least $5,000 for Advocates for Children, which serves about 2,600 area youth each year through the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter and programs, such as Court Appointed Special Advocates and A Better Way Children’s Advocacy Center. Since about 55 percent of Advocates’ annual more than $1.7 million budget is raised by the local community, benefits like “Every Child’s a Star” are integral to the nonprofit’s operations.
“Over the years, it has not only allowed the kids in the community to showcase their talent, which is really a wonderful thing, but it has also provided much needed funds for Advocates’ programs,” Eagar said. “This year, we are earmarking every dollar that we raise from ticket sales to a big spruce up of the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter. We’ve been open here in this location for almost 15 years and it’s beat up and banged up and needs some cosmetic work. ...
“More than half of the money that we need in order to continue all [of our] programs has to come from sources like this — from events, from individuals, from companies, from private donations, churches, etc. ... We’ve been around for 30 years trying to prevent child abuse and to help those who are already the victims of child abuse. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes we forget that prevention is so much cheaper to do than intervention. We need to always stay mindful of the fact that if we can prevent it in the first place, it’s incredibly cheaper per family than dealing with the trauma of kids who are already abused.”
Along with being available at the door, tickets — which cost $10 per individual — can be purchased in advance by calling Cindy Farmer at 770-386-0194. While ticket sales will go toward providing a facelift to Flowering Branch, a raffle will be conducted to purchase a van for the shelter. Tickets to win the two-seater, electric vehicle 2013 Wheego LiFe are available online at Advocates for Children’s website, www.AdvoChild.org.