Students study and live at the Star of Hope Centre in Bungoma, Kenya. (Star of Hope Centre)

Students study and live at the Star of Hope Centre in Bungoma, Kenya. (Star of Hope Centre)

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Dead-on Dana and the dance party

DANA SULLIVAN, SPARK plug of a guy, is not tamped down by these times.

I read his book, “Dead Max Comix,” meant for middle-schoolers, and wished it had been around when I was in junior high. See, Sullivan’s not afraid to write about loss and, more importantly, how our loved ones guide us after they’ve passed. He’s also dang funny.

The author and cartoonist, who moved from Seattle to Port Townsend in early 2019, loved to visit schools. He’d talk to kids about drawing, writing and persisting with their artistic pursuits, no matter what.

School assemblies aren’t on the horizon for awhile, but Sullivan is teaching youth workshops online through the Port Townsend School of the Arts (PTSchooloftheArts.org).

Another passion is keeping Sullivan and his wife, Vicki Legman, busy right now. The Star of Hope Centre in Bungoma, Kenya, became part of their lives more than a decade ago after their son Kyle volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage. There, he became fast friends with teacher Leonard Muyelele.

When Muyelele moved back to his hometown of Bungoma and opened Star of Hope to care for vulnerable local children, he and Kyle stayed in touch. Later, Kyle’s folks visited.

The center Muyelele built is “amazing,” Legman said.

Eleven Christmases ago, the Sullivan-Legman family pooled their holiday-gift money and sent it to Star of Hope. Seven months hence, a fundraising party, “Dancing for the Stars,” debuted in a big Seattle house friends donated for the event.

This midsummer night’s dream has come true. The sum raised last year for the Star of Hope’s 10th anniversary dance reached $22,000, the donations having funded school buildings, a new dormitory, a food program and wages for the people who teach and care for the young students.

“We’ve been able to keep the staff and pay them during the [pandemic-caused] shutdown,” Legman said. “That helps the village tremendously.”

A registered nonprofit since 2011, the Star of Hope organization has almost no administrative overhead, she added.

With their fundraiser, Sullivan, Legman and their board of directors want to show people a good time — especially now. They aim to give us a chance to dance, hear fun music, eat, drink and feel a sense of connection to one another, on whichever continent we live.

So on Saturday, July 25, Legman, Sullivan and their musical, artistic friends will present a festive evening, starting with a light-hearted dance lesson, live-streamed for guests anywhere.

This is no Zoom meeting, Legman said. It’s more like a webinar that effervesces with dance moves, comic songs and quick visits with Muyelele himself, plus Sullivan’s dog Bennie.

To connect with the pandemic edition of “Dancing for the Stars,” you can register in advance at www.starofhopecentre.org. The website bursts with videos, cartoons, photos and details about the children’s center.

“Mark your calendar to stay home,” Sullivan writes, “for Star of Hope’s biggest party of the year in your living room/office/kitchen/room-of-your-choice!”

Party-goers can “dance like nobody’s watching — because they aren’t!”

Dancing and donating to Star of Hope are, thank goodness, ways to commit positivity, to flick on a light in our gloomy world.

As the event draws near, Sullivan hasn’t slacked off his day job as an author and mentor. “Dead Max Comix” book two, “The Rocking Dead,” is ready for release in September, and he just finished the final artwork for the January release of book three, “Bully for You!”

At the Port Townsend School of the Arts, Sullivan will teach “Graphic Novels and Comix for Teens,” his five-day online workshop, starting July 27.

Then there’s book four of the Dead Max series, with a title reflecting Sullivan’s brand of humor. This installment, to come out a year from now, is “Furball of the Apocalypse.”

_________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend. Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Aug. 5. Reach her at [email protected]

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