GoFundMe donations help Va woman open ballet school

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THORNBURG, Va. (AP) – A new ballet school that opened in Spotsylvania County with a lift from a crowdfunding site has landed the owner in an article in the Jan. 17 issue of All You magazine.

Karin Tucker, a former professional dancer, used GoFundMe.com to supplement the family savings she’s sunk into launching The Courthouse School of Ballet in Brianis Plaza, a strip center near the Food Lion in Thornburg.

“I had a former classmate who is a filmmaker and friend on Facebook who posted a link to one of the (crowdfunding) sites when she was raising money for a documentary,” said Tucker. “I said, ‘Let’s try it and see what happens.’”

Crowdfunding has become an increasingly popular way for people to solicit donations. A recent survey by MASSolutions found that crowdfunding platforms raised $2.7 billion, an 81 percent increase over 2011, and successfully funded more than 1 million campaigns in 2012. The Pittsburgh marketing firm forecasts an increase in global crowdfunding volumes to $5.1 billion this year.

As Tucker was to discover, it’s not just filmmakers like her friend who are using crowdfunding like sites. The others in the All You article are a couple who used IndieGoGo.com to raise funds for in vitro fertilization – they had the first “crowdsourcing baby, and a woman who raised $50,000 for her cancer treatments on GiveForward.com.

Tucker said she picked GoFundMe.com because it was easy to create a site on the platform. Then she uploaded a photo and “started writing from the heart.”

The Courthouse School of Ballet (Courtesy Photo)

The Courthouse School of Ballet (Courtesy Photo)

Her pitch began: “Little (and big) dancers are all around me and they have no place to go. I live in a mostly rural area (combined population of my county and the adjacent one is approx. 155,000) where many of the residents are hardworking people who don’t have a lot of extra money. Their children would love to take dance lessons but the average dance class tuition is financially out of reach. Oh yeah, there is no real public transportation so everyone has to drive.”

The first donation for Tucker’s venture arrived in an hour, the speed of which surprised her so much that she said she nearly fell out of bed. She eventually raised more than $2,500 from 22 people, enough to lease the former Curves location at 6376 Jefferson Davis Highway, Suite 220, in October.

Tuition for The Courthouse School of Ballet starts at $40 a month, but reduced rates are available for families who qualify for such things as free and reduced school lunches. Tucker said she’s going to keep her site on GoFundMe.com until the end of January to raise funds to buy tights and shoes for those students who can’t afford them.

Tucker, a Philadelphia native, began her formal dance training at age 11 at the school of The Philadelphia Dance Company. She was promoted at 16 to the training program and then to the performing company two years later.

She danced with that company for seven years, and later performed with the DC Contemporary Dance Theater, the Chamber Contemporary Dance Theater in New York and the Aretha Franklin Revue at Trump’s Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City.

Tucker eventually traded her ballet slippers for a career in nursing and moved to Thornburg, where she realized not every child had the same opportunities that she’d taken for granted when she was growing up. There were no ballet schools in her area, even though dance has become more popular than ever with the advent of such reality TV shows as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars.”

The Courthouse School of Ballet, she said, “is kind of like my personal ‘Field of Dreams.’ Maybe if we build it, they will come. So far, it’s been OK.”

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Information from: The Free Lance-Star, http://www.fredericksburg.com/

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