Dancing To Make A Difference

They came because they loved dance; they stayed because they were moved by the organization.

“The more I got involved and saw how we were impacting people, the more I wanted to keep giving,” said college senior Emily Trammel, a member of the Stephen F. Austin State University’s Dancers Against Cancer, a student-run nonprofit that holds dozens of fundraisers through the fall and spring semesters.

Half of those proceeds are donated every semester to a cancer patient selected by the group.

Another handful of patients battling cancer are presented with gift baskets, and Trammel’s great-grandfather was among those.

“It’s just a cool way to impact people,” said Trammel, who serves as advertising director for the nonprofit, which in spring 2019 marked its most successful semester, raising an estimated $16,000.

Since the SFA organization’s founding in 2011, members select a benefit charity by popular vote. Then came 2020, when the chosen organization was to be the East Texas Cancer Alliance of Hope.

“We left for spring break not knowing anything was going to change,” said SFA Dancers Against Cancer president Rebecca Walton, a senior who joined the organization three years ago.

Like the remainder of SFA’s in-person classes and almost every other event, the spring 2020 benefit was called off because of the pandemic.

The fall and spring shows, held in mid-November and April, highlight various styles of dance plus other acts.

“It’s not just dancing,” Trammel said, recalling some of the memorable groups from the fall 2020 show. “There was a chicken dance with costumes. We also had a ballet solo. Hip-hop is always popular. It’s a wide variety.”

Acts have included singers, all styles of dance, interactive fundraisers and presentations on cancer awareness. Each show takes an entire semester to produce, with group dances choreographed at the beginning of the term and then rehearsed weekly. There are also solo performances such as a tap dance by Maggie Wilcox, who has been part of Dancers Against Cancer since she came to SFA four years ago.

“My dad always wanted me to do a tap solo, and it’s my senior year,” said Wilcox, whose tap and jazz lessons began shortly after she learned to walk.

The benefit show also includes a silent and live auction with items such as hand-made quilts by members, gift baskets and merchandise, and service donations from businesses.

In addition to its shows, Dancers Against Cancer holds dozens of fundraisers throughout the year, including profit-sharing nights with local restaurants and a spring rummage sale.

“Every semester we team up with a fraternity to do a car wash,” Wilcox said. “We were able to raise about $500 this year, which is awesome because it’s donation-only.”

Since regrouping in fall 2020, SFA Dancers Against Cancer has opted to continue contributing to East Texas Cancer Alliance of Hope, a 7-year-old charity that specifically supports East Texans affected by cancer.

“We loved that it was local and close to us,” Walton said.

For more on this organization, email dancersagainstcancernac@gmail.com.