House mother and teacher Mama Ruth tries out the new slide at the Star of Hope Centre in Kenya. (photo courtesy of Star of Hope Centre)

House mother and teacher Mama Ruth tries out the new slide at the Star of Hope Centre in Kenya. (photo courtesy of Star of Hope Centre)

‘Dancing for the Stars’ crosses the globe Saturday

Fundraiser helps rural Kenya school

PORT TOWNSEND — Husband and wife team Dana Sullivan and Vicki Legman are still marveling — and still dancing — about what’s happened in the past several months.

Their “Dancing for the Stars” party, begun with a live band and fancy food on a Seattle rooftop 12 years ago, went online last summer.

Legman and Sullivan are hostess and host, while their friend, songwriter Kelly Van Camp, plays Beatles tunes with the lyrics rewritten especially for the event.

Viewers watch videos of the Star of Hope Centre for Children, a school in rural Kenya that, after visiting years ago, Legman and Sullivan have never forgotten.

“Dancing for the Stars,” set for 7 p.m. Saturday, is a fundraiser for the school’s 200 students, who live about a kilometer from the Ugandan border.

To join the party and virtually visit the school, viewers can find the Zoom link at https://www.starofhopecentre.org/home.html. There’s also a donation button on the website.

Attending the party is free, Sullivan and Legman emphasize, adding the evening’s highlights are short video clips the staff and kids have made together.

Sullivan, an artist and graphic novelist, works with Kenyan teacher Leonard Muyelele to produce the clips — a collaboration spread over a 10-hour time difference.

“Is that not a miracle, communicating with this man across the Earth?” Legman asked, adding her husband gives the whole production an antic charm.

In 2020, when the couple took the party online, they wondered whether anyone would respond.

“Every year we think it’s going to tank,” Legman said.

“Maybe people are burned out; we’ll be lucky if we make $5,000.”

Supporters have dispelled those doubts. 2020’s dance party raised $23,000, providing the Star of Hope Centre with the funds it needed to reopen last fall. The school provides meals, shelter and showers along with instruction from preschool through eighth grade — and this year it has furnished personal protective equipment for students and teachers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We were very lucky: No kids or staff got sick from COVID,” Legman said.

“The village is isolated. There is some COVID there now,” she said. Some adults have received a first dose of the vaccine but not the second yet.

The Star of Hope Centre has stayed safe, as the people there practice social distancing and wear masks indoors. Donations have funded new individual desks to replace the long tables of pre-pandemic times.

Contributions made before, during or after Saturday’s dance party also fund food, tuition, textbooks and uniforms for the students, and salaries for the teachers.

Since Sullivan and Legman, both volunteers, formed a nonprofit organization in 2011, donations are tax-deductible. Those who want to support the school but can’t make it to the party can mail a check to Star of Hope, 5015 Magnolia St., Port Townsend, WA 98368.

Saturday night is for celebrating these children, Sullivan said, with some dancing at home, maybe in your kitchen, where you’re plating up supper and pouring yourself a beverage.

“We start out,” he said, “with ‘Where is everybody?’” as in which cities do viewers live in. Then comes the freshly composed music, including Van Camp’s switched-up version of “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”

Then viewers will see Muyelele, his wife Gladwell and their students at the Star of Hope Centre.

“The kids are delighted to be back at school, delighted to be back with their friends,” Legman said.

“It’s a center of joy.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.

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