On this clear, crisp, January 30, 2019 evening, we were all invited to the Colfax Charter Elementary School/DREAM Program, Mid Year Ballroom Showcase. It was held in the auditorium and every seat was filled with standing room only. Dressed in their best, the 4thgraders and 5thgraders were excited to perform for their parents, relatives, friends and teachers. It was truly a fun event!
There are 365 students in this dance program, involving two schools. Half of those students were performing tonight and are part of the DREAM program. DREAM stands for Discover, Respect, Express, Achieve, Motivation. This non-profit program is entirely funded by the Fordney Foundation. It is the brainchild of Marilyn Fordney, director of Fordney Foundation and Erica Arnold, professional dancer and dance instructor. Together they came up with a 30-week dance program to teach children to dance. To find out more about DREAM, you can follow the DREAM program on: Facebook – @dreamdanceprogram, Instagram – @dreamdanceprogram and Twitter – @DREAMdanceprog. If you are interested in taking dance lessons, find out more about it by contacting Erica at EA Dance in Encino and find out about all of their dance programs.
We want to mention a special CONGRATULATIONS to Erica, as she had a baby boy on December 19, 2019. While she was away, her wonderful dance partner and husband, Artemi Okunev, took over Erica’s dance classes, so no students ever missed a beat in their lessons. Artemi mentioned that their new baby boy, Radion, is born exactly one month after Artemi’s birthday to the day…cool! Artemi was super great with the kids and we all thank him for his time! I’m told, he will be back for a few more weeks of lessons.
The program was officially on its way when Colfax’s principal, Robyn Friedman, welcomed us to the 15-week showcase and expressed her gratitude to Fordney Foundation, Erica and Artemi, for bringing the DREAM program to Colfax. This night was a celebration of the halfway mark. The 4thgraders were taught and performed the Hustle and Rumba and
represented their class and teachers: Teresa Maynes, Anya Hulett, and Sarah Howe. The children did not disappoint, they were all having fun as they danced to the audience’s delight! Erica Arnold told us that part of what the DREAM program hopes to achieve is, “making ladies and gentlemen out of the children.”
Mrs. Marilyn Fordney was then invited to speak about the journey that led her to the founding of Fordney Foundation and with her husband, Alex Havasi, the Havasi Wilderness Foundation. She explained how she wanted to bring both dance and nature to young people’s attention, and to the value in their lives. Marilyn Fordney had both an interesting and unique experience as a child that led her to this moment today. She told of her
internment treatment during World War II and the blessing of meeting Father Flanagan. Mrs. Fordney’s family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, after being uprooted from their home in Los Angeles. The significance of Boy’s Town and living there definitely impacted her life. To learn more about Marilyn Fordney’s dramatic beginnings, please read our blog at: https://fordneyfoundation.org/once-upon-a-time-in-america-an-untold-story/. You can also read the story that was recently published in the November-December 2018 issue of Omaha Magazine. There is a book written by Father Clifford J. Stevens entitled Legacy of Devotion that is available on Amazon that has even more details of the seldom spoken story of what went on in America during World War II.
Mrs. Fordney further explained her education and what she had to do to follow her heart and passion for dance while becoming a foremost expert in her
academic field. She not only was an educator but also went on to publish numerous textbooks that won four nationally acclaimed awards! This is how she was able to support two foundations. As a note, Mrs. Fordney continues to give donations to Boys Town that is celebrating 100 years of helping young children. Marilyn Fordney told us how she had already lost one home due to fire and was asked to evacuate again in the Woolsey fires. Luck was on her side this time, as her home was untouched! She spoke about dance, as something you can do all of your life, through ups and downs. She explained how dancing makes us feel better and more positive emotionally. But it was her final words that really touched everybody in that room, “dancing is my gift, I give to you. It is given to you by people who love humanity.”
We were then treated to a pro-am performance by Artemi and his dance student, Anna Gilichensky. Before they performed, Erica told us that Anna was their shy student that started learning ballroom dance at four years old. Now she is a champion at competitions! She went on to explain about Fordney Foundation’s sponsored programs like Best of the Best, Top 10 Best in Standard and Latin to name a few and other scholarship opportunities. Artemi and Anna were awesome doing a Cha Cha to Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” Everyone loved it! It was then time for group photos of all performing 4thgraders with Erica, Mrs. Fordney and Artemi too.
Next, we were treated to the 5thgraders who were eager to show us what they learned doing–Salsa and Triple Swing representing their class and teachers: Meghan Hanlon, Gail Craven, and Erin Alexander. They did a super job and the audience loved them! Anna and Artemi performed again. Also, Mrs. Fordney spoke to the audience and it was then time for photos of the entire 5thgrade class.
We wish to thank every one of our children for their great performances. We thank all the teachers for their continued support. A special thank you to Principal Friedman, for her continued belief in what we do. We thank Artemi Okunev for a job well done in so many areas! Thank you too, Anna Gilichensky for coming to dance for us! You were great! We love all of these super photos taken by Mr. Alex Havasi and thank him for his hard work. Thank you to everyone who donated their time to help us this evening. Special shout outs to Monet Pinkett, Maya Urshansky, Michael Urshansky, and their mothers, Marla Pinkett and Svetlana Urshansky for your friendship and always being there for us! Thank you, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends for supporting these children by showing up. That means the world to us and them! We stand up and applaud Erica Arnold Okunev for the marvelous work she does with the children. The students love you! And a special “thank you for all you do,” Mrs. Marilyn Fordney, “who gives from her heart and is a firm believer in the art of joy.”
Thought Of The Week:
Light Tomorrow with Today – Elizabeth Barrett Browning