Sarah Jackson Dances to Make a Difference

Maple Grove Senior High student goes all-out to help.

Sarah Jackson said ‘yes’ to helping with an area event to raise funds for cancer victims but didn’t truly know what she was getting herself into. A National Honor Society student and Maple Grove High School hockey team member, Jackson was looking to collect service hours. She had worked with Steffany Fleming, fundraising chair for Dancing to Make a Difference, on an event in the past and was happy to help again. Fleming asked Jackson to make ribbons to be worn by dancers raising money while dancing in honor of those fighting or who have lost their fight to cancer. The event was held on behalf of the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.           

Dancing to Make a Difference involved dance studios in the Twin Cities area. Jackson says she was initially never asked for a specific number of pinned ribbons, but when she received the spools of material and realized there was enough to make roughly 14,500 ribbons, she knew she had a big project on her hands. “That's when I stressed out,” Jackson says. “I started asking a few friends for help, and they were extremely willing. As people heard what I was doing, more people were willing to help out.” Jackson compiled quantities of supplies in bags for easy distribution. She made pins in every spare moment, including on the long car ride to relatives during the holidays. She put together “pinning parties” and assembly lines of friends and hockey team members on breaks in the bleachers between tournaments. “Most people on the team completed at least 100 ribbons. A few even got over a thousand done each. The project wouldn't have been completed without them,” Jackson claims.    

Their investment also drew blood from time to time as they got the hang of handling the pins. Together they found more efficient ways of accomplishing the task as they went along; Jackson says friends were responsible for completing over half of the 13,000 ribbons (finished ahead of schedule) for the event.           

Each color of ribbon represented a different form of cancer, so as the more than 1000 dancers performed in their separate shows, the ribbons they wore were specific to someone they knew, or had known, with that type of cancer. “I loved the added personal touch it had for the dancers,” says Fleming, “I believe it helped them to feel a little bit more in touch with what they were doing.”           

Three of the eight dance studios with dancers wearing ribbons this year are in Maple Grove: Genesis Dance Company, Kincade Dance Industries and Escalate Dance. Fleming believes a big part of the success of this event depended upon the encouragement each studio gave their dancers. “But the true success of this event for me is the kids,” she says. “It’s the kids taking the time to show that they can make a difference just by doing what they love to do—dance.”           

According to Fleming, Jackson’s ribbons spurred dancers on to raise nearly $14,000 dollars this year; almost doubling the funds raised last year. Fleming has nothing but glowing praise for the way Jackson generously took on this project without knowing the full extent of her involvement, for not flinching when the going got tough, and for the tremendous impact she had, along with the dancers, in “making a difference in the community”. The hardest part? “Juggling school, hockey and ribbons all at the same time,” Jackson says.           

It seems juggling and dancing go well together.