Amanda Harris won’t be on CNN tonight, but she is definitely one of my Thanksgiving heroes. At the tender age of 17 (it’s her birthday today!) she has packed years of volunteering into her young life, and brought a lot of sparkle (literally) into the lives of underprivileged little girls.
Amanda’s been dancing since she was 3, taking modern, jazz, ballet and point classes four times a week and on Saturdays. She’s also dance captain at her school and takes a full load of academics, but volunteering has always been a big part of her family’s life. “My grandpa always said, you give til it hurts,” Amanda explains.
So ever since middle school, Amanda has been teaching dance classes at the Boys & Girls Club in Brookhaven, Atlanta — after school on Fridays to about 25 little girls, ages 7 to 9. That’s a whole lot of little girls with a whole lot of energy to try to keep focused – so Amanda uses jazz and hip-hop music to keep them grooving.
And each spring, she takes her fired-up protégés to perform at her private school’s big spring dance concert– buying them dinner, taking a bus across town in the new white shirts they’ve hand-decorated with sparkly paints, and performing for a packed audience under the bright lights. What a debut!
Amanda’s creativity and exuberance spills over onto everything she does. When she realized that a lot of families didn’t have enough money to buy expensive leotards, tights, and tutus for dance lessons, she started Wear Then Share, to collect gently used dance wear for underprivileged children.
Over the years she’s donated more than 1,500 dance items to The Boys & Girls Club, Mary Hall Freedom House (for homeless women and children), Foster Care Support Foundation, and Moving in the Spirit (a youth development dance program in Atlanta).
Best of all, she’s really humble and adorable. When Amanda told me about her project, she said “I know that you must have a lot of people asking you for money, so I totally understand if you don’t choose me. And for some causes, $100 isn’t a whole lot of money. But for me, it’s pretty much my whole budget for the year.”
It’s a total thrill today for me to give Amanda Harris a birthday award of $100 for Wear Then Share. And how thankful I am for kids like these, coming up in the world!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYBODY!