At the Hop: A Dance to Fund Rabbits for Resilience

Danceathon gives innovative global-health program a boost

Sharon Spodak of Bala Cynwyd, PA needed a good-works project to complete ahead of her bat mitzvah. She had sort of done one already, helping to teach dance at a school for disabled children. But she wanted to do more, her own mitzvah project that would put disadvantaged young girls on the path to a better life. “Education is such an important part of my life,” she explains.

And of course there would be dancing. (Among her many interests, “I dance a lot during the week,” Sharon says, in what sounds like an understatement.) After that, she was stumped. How would she find the right organization to support, one that would give her the feedback to wrap up the project?

That’s what moms are for, right? “I had my marching orders,” laughs Elaine Spodak, who soon enough happened to be in Baltimore for an event called A Woman’s Journey at Johns Hopkins. (She had previously helped stage the annual event while a Johns Hopkins employee and returns for it every year.) When keynote speaker and SON Professor Nancy Glass launched into a discussion of Rabbits for Resilience—which helps children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) raise and sell the animals to assist their families, pay for schooling, and gain a skill—“it was like Nancy was talking directly to me,” Elaine says.

“I remember being astonished that in some countries, girls aren’t even allowed to go to school.”

And it was music to Sharon’s feet. “It sounded amazing,” she says, particularly the “teach a man to fish vs. just handing over money” approach. “I remember when I was younger being astonished that in some countries, girls aren’t even allowed to go to school.”

Quicker than you can say “Hang the disco ball,” Sharon was prepping a space in her Philadelphia suburb and getting invitations out for a February danceathon. (“Really, Sharon did 99.9 percent of making this happen,” says her mom.) Five hours of fun, games, and dancing later, she had about $1,000 in pledges.

“This touches my heart,” says Glass, a driving force behind Rabbits for Resilience and a partner program, Pigs for Peace, which helps women in the DRC gain financial independence. “It is so rewarding to see your words make a direct impact on someone, to capture a young woman’s imagination. We need our young people to believe they can change the world, because they can.”