It is difficult to find somebody who hasn't been affected by cancer. It has ended too many lives, yet brought so many together to fight against this vicious disease. One of the many inspiring stories of how cancer can bring together a whole community is the story of Jacquie Hirsch and Dancers Give Back.
Hirsch was a 22-year-old student at Geneseo State College when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) on Sept. 28, 2007. After going through numerous treatments and transplants, she lost her battle to cancer Sept. 6, 2008.
Ali Dietz, a friend and classmate of Hirsch's, is the daughter of Mary Alice Dietz, the founder of Mary Alice's Dance Studio in Orchard Park. Dancers Give Back (DGB) was created by Dietz with Mary Alice's Dance Studio to benefit the Jacquie Hirsch For ALL Foundation, which is run by Hirsch's family.
The first year, the fundraiser included 15 area dance studios and raised $17,000. Since then, DGB has grown to raise more than $58,000 in the last three years and includes more than 30 dance studios.
"The community has been so generous and supportive, and it's amazing to see how much of a difference DGB has made in just three years," said Mary Alice Dietz and AJ Overton, directors at Mary Alice's Dance Studio. "It's exciting to watch DGB grow and continue to change people's lives."
This year, DGB will include 38 dance studios, two showcase performances, a basket auction, silent auction, games, vendors, dancing and more.
Ida Saki, a student at New York University and a contestant on "So You Think You Can Dance," will be teaching two master classes. Her classes benefit Micaela's Fund, which was set up when a friend of Saki's lost her own battle with leukemia.
There also will be a performance by the Buffalo Jills and a Zumbathon.
Over the next year or so, it is Dietz's goal to make DGB more nationally recognized.
"DGB is truly inspiring because knowing that doing what I love can make a difference is so amazing to me," said Katie Augustine, a sophomore at Nardin Academy.
"There aren't really words to describe how much the support means to me and everyone involved," said Ali Dietz. "Everyone on that stage and in the room has the same common goal -- a cure for cancer. I know that someday soon all of the support we've received will turn into something life-changing for future families who will be affected by the horrible disease."
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Dancers Give Back will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Orchard Park Middle School, 60 S. Lincoln Ave., Orchard Park. Tickets are $10 at the door, which includes a chance to win a 46-inch television. For more information or to make a donation, call 662-1080 or visit dancersgiveback.com or jacquiehirschforall.com.
Waverly Colville is a sophomore at Orchard Park High School.