As the local dance community readies for a spate of holiday ballets, one of its most decorated members has pointed her feet in the direction of community service.
Makenzi Harris is a Grade 12 student at Chatelech Secondary School who dances and teaches at the Coast Academy of Dance in Sechelt. Harris was the Senior Stage Dance Provincial Delegate at this year’s Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts, and was selected as a scholarship winner by the Sunshine Coast Dance Society.
She was one of the featured performers at October’s Celebration of Dance gala (part of the Sechelt Arts Festival), where she and Andrea Villanueva performed scorching choreography to the music of Janet Jackson.
In October, Harris began an initiative to produce a more rudimentary type of warmth. She rallied her network of dance families to gather men’s clothing and towels for the Arrowhead Clubhouse, which is part of the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society. The Sechelt clubhouse has 315 members who struggle with mental health challenges and live in poverty.
The Arrowhead Clubhouse serves 10,000 meals each year, and a recent survey indicated that 95 per cent of its members say their quality of life has improved since joining.
Harris launched a “Winter Warm-Up” clothing drive, dedicating her campaign to Barry Stadel, a family friend who is an Arrowhead member.
“Barry has been a constant support for our family, especially my father,” said Harris. “When we needed help around our house and property, he’s been there for us at a moment’s notice. Barry was just recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We wanted to do something to show him our appreciation and to support a place he loves so much.”
Harris was also affected by the sight of unhoused people tenting near the Coast Academy of Dance. “We see it every day but no one makes an effort to help,” she said.
On the frosty morning of Nov. 20, Harris Harris moved an estimat 680 kilograms of clothing-packed sacks into the Arrowhead Clubhouse lounge, assisted by her parents Mary and Ric and clubhouse members including Stadel. She also presented $500 in cash donations.
“[Harris’s father] Ric has been truly a best friend to me in the world,” Stadel said. The 55-year-old recently spent time at hospitals in Sechelt and Vancouver for cancer treatments. Rigours of his medical procedures were exacerbated by diabetes.
“And then Ric’s daughter Makenzi did this in my name,” Stadel continued. “It brought me to tears. I couldn’t believe it when Ric brought me to their house yesterday and I saw the big pile of stuff on the floor. I was completely flabbergasted.”
Foye Hatton, who as project lead for the Arrowhead Clubhouse oversees its operations, explained that winter clothing donations are vital.
“It’s starting to get colder and people really need people to think about their community and share things that they no longer need so that we can find a good home for them,” Hatton said. “Makenzi has taken on such an amazing role, connecting with her community, connecting with the people that she knows and loves and spreading the word about Arrowhead. It’s been truly inspirational to watch her go.”
In December Harris will appear in the Sunshine Coast Nutcracker ballet, playing the Harlequin — a character who emerges from an oversized gift box.
More information about the Arrowhead Clubhouse and a donation form are available online at arrowclub.org.