WESTERLY – Anna Roth’s love of dance led her to enter the world of philanthropy – at the age of 17.
Roth, a high school student who spends her summers at Westerly, last year founded the Leotard Project, a charity that combines all her passions: concern for the environment, a desire to help others and a desire to ” make a difference”. she says.
With the stated goal of giving “new purpose to dancewear, one leotard at a time”, Project Leotard “removes economic barriers by providing dancewear to aspiring dancers in underserved communities and promotes environmental sustainability by recycling dancewear so more children can experience the joy of dancing,” Roth writes on the organization’s website.
‘I love dancing and I love helping people,’ a cheery Roth said one afternoon last week as she sat inside her parents’ renovated farmhouse and talked about developments. of the project and his hopes for its future.
Roth, who has danced most of her life, said the idea for the project started when she started thinking about her used dance clothes.
The only daughter of Carmiña and Ralf Roth, of Westerly and Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Roth said she realized dance clothes and dance shoes could be expensive, quickly outgrowing them. and often thrown away.
“It’s an expensive sport,” she said.
Where did all the dancewear end up, she wondered, in the landfill? And what about the dance clothes of his fellow dancers?
And then, she says, she began to wonder if there weren’t young dancers who had been prevented from starting dancing because they couldn’t afford to buy all the leotards, shoes and pantyhose required.
“Then I put two and two together,” she said. “And the problem kind of solved itself…or the problems solved each other.”
Roth, a student at Loomis-Chafee School in Windsor, Connecticut, quickly began curating a collection of gently used leotards, tights, shoes and skirts and set about finding new homes for the items.
She wrote a fundraising letter, launched a GoFundMe page and started designing the website using a template, she said.
She also arranged for collection boxes to be placed at local dance schools and began to network in earnest. So far, she’s raised $1,875 of her $5,000 goal.
She connected with a New Haven organization called Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership Inc. (LEAP), which was founded in 1992 by “educators, students and community activists to fight historic youth disengagement of color in the city.”
“I went to New Haven and met some of the kids,” Roth said. “They were thrilled and grateful.
“We also donated portable ballet bars and floor coverings,” she added.
LEAP Chief of Staff Yakeita Robinson said Project Leotard donations have provided “meaningful dance experiences” for a larger group of children. Wearable bars mean the program can be offered at each of the organization’s eight locations, she said, and leotards allow interested kids to practice in real dance clothes.
“They can actually transition from school clothes to proper dance clothes,” she said, which many kids in the program wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
“It’s very exciting for us,” Robinson said, “and it’s really amazing to see someone so young making the effort to make changes.”
Robinson said it was rare and “selfless” to see such a young woman so determined to bring about change in the lives of other young people.
“It may seem like a small thing,” she added, “but who knows? It might spark a passion in another young girl and Anna is one of them.”
In addition to collecting dancewear, the Leotard Project raises funds “to supplement our inventory through individual donations.”
Roth, who said she has always been driven by her love of dancing and her eagerness to share her joy in dancing, laughed when she recalled her early days with the art form.
“I started dancing as soon as I could walk,” she said. “It was the only thing I wanted to do. I even remember my first teacher. She was a woman named Felicity Foote at the Greenwich Ballet Workshop and she terrified me.
“But I loved the challenge,” she added. “And I wanted to improve.”
The passion for dancing has remained strong since those early days, said Roth, who is also a member of the varsity dance team at Loomis-Chaffee, where she is also president of the Pelican Pilots, a mentorship club.
“I love acting and I love the arts,” she said. “Dancing combines the two.”
Anna’s love of the arts seems to run in the family. His younger brother Zach starred as “The Boy” in the Colonial Theater’s production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” earlier this summer.
Roth’s mother, Carmiña, an interior designer, said her daughter has had a long interest in volunteering and has always had a strong caring side.
“She went on a mission trip to Guatemala with our church to help build a school,” Carmiña said, “and she was always involved in community service at school.
“She is also an excellent student,” she added. “She juggles a lot.
Anna has also been an active sailor with the Watch Hill Yacht Club for several years. She spent much of her summer working as a beach crew member for the East Beach Association.
“I had the best summer of my life,” said Anna, who just completed her second summer working for the beach association. “I’ve already signed up for next year.”
Stephen Iacoi, from Westerly, who led the beach team for several years, said he was not surprised when he first heard of Anna’s “efforts to support other young people girls who share the love of dance”.
“She’s a driven young woman who isn’t afraid of a challenge,” Iacoi said in an email. “Anna has many qualities, but it’s her kindness and gentleness that appeals to everyone.
“She is a leader, a hard worker and a friend to everyone she comes in contact with. Anna is a valued employee of the East Beach Association…we are very proud of Anna and her efforts to help the other girls in her community.”
Senator Dennis L. Algiere, of Westerly, vice president of the Washington Trust Company and longtime friend of the Roth family, said he was also not surprised when he learned that Anna “had created this generous program”.
“Finding a way to help other dancers in need while helping the environment is truly awesome,” he said in an email.
Anna said she hopes word of her project will spread so she can continue to educate more and more future dancers.
“Ideally it will go national,” she said.
To learn more about the Justaucorps project, visit https://www.theleotardproject.org/.