Raising funds and awareness for childhood cancer by bringing a dance benefit to Texas
“Dance of Hope means we get to dance for a bigger purpose, while coming together with other studios across the area to give back to our community and shine a light on an extremely important cause. It’s an opportunity to celebrate survivors and honor those who are no longer with us.” – Jennifer Foley, owner of Momentum Dance Studio, a 2022 Dance of Hope DFW participating studio
During her sophomore year of high school, Kilee Shafer began looking for an internship. She didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do, but she knew it had to be meaningful. What she found—and later created—went beyond anything she could have dreamed of.
During her search, Kilee’s dad connected her with Ruthe Rosen, a colleague of his and the founder of the Let It Be Foundation in California.
“What the Let It Be Foundation does really spoke to me,” Kilee said. “I asked Mrs. Rosen if she was looking for an intern, and when we met for the first time, we just clicked.”
Ruthe founded the Let It Be Foundation after her daughter, Karla, lost her battle with an inoperable brain tumor at 14 years old. In the years since Karla passed, the Let It Be Foundation has grown to include events such as Dance of Hope, a benefit that fundraises for cancer programs and honors Karla’s love of dance. As a competitive dancer herself, Kilee knew Dance of Hope was exactly what she was looking for.
“Dance of Hope connected all of my worlds: dance, my internship and giving back,” Kilee said. “We started talking about it during my internship, and as I learned how Mrs. Rosen runs the nonprofit, I wanted to transition into action.”
Kilee and Ruthe began making plans to make Dance of Hope happen in North Texas. They met and planned virtually for one year before the event, and Kilee recruited her friends and fellow dancers to form a local planning team.
“We did some venue research, then started working on our messaging and refined how we would broadcast it,” Kilee said. “We reached out to as many dance studios as we could, and the ones that came were super intentional. So many dancers have reached out since the event, and they all really loved it.”
The inaugural Dance of Hope DFW brought seven dance studios together for one night of inspiring performances. Over 600 of the 700 available tickets were sold, and Ruthe even traveled from California to be there for the event. Kilee said that the dancers and their studios have continued to spread the word, and she and her team have plans to make Dance of Hope DFW an annual event.
“The dancers and the studios are inspired,” Kilee said. “The awareness that it brought to childhood cancer was an unexpected gift.”
Funds raised at the Dance of Hope DFW event were used to create age-specific activity bags to help patients at our Cook Children’s Hematology and Oncology Center find peace and distraction during treatment.
In the future, Kilee plans to remain involved by serving on the planning board and participating virtually when she moves to college.
“I see it as a way that people younger than me can learn from what we were able to start,” Kilee said. “It created a new community around something we already had in our community, and I know so many more people are talking about Cook Children’s.”