By Joel Hall
In an effort to generate funds and piggyback on the growing popularity of step dancing, the Rainbow House -- a local shelter for abused, neglected, and runaway children -- will host its first-ever Metro Atlanta All Star Step Show Challenge.
Eleven middle school, high school, and church step teams from around the state will compete for $1,000 and the bragging rights to a five-foot-tall trophy.
The event will take place this Sunday at 4 p.m., at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, located at 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway in Jonesboro.
In March of this year, Calene Dunn, a former Rainbow House accountant, was indicted for stealing more than $400,000 from the shelter between 2002 and 2006. Monique Henderson, marketing and development director for Rainbow House, believes the step show will assist the shelter in retrieving some necessary funding.
"We're trying to raise some money due to our financial struggles from last year and step shows seem to be in right now," said Henderson. "It's something that African-American fraternities and sororities have done for over 50 years. Because of movies and different media, it really has hit the mainstream, and a lot of schools are picking it up."
The teams in the competition will come from as far away as Savannah and Valdosta. As of Wednesday, the roster included Austin Road Middle School in Stockbridge, Gainesville Middle School in Gainesville, Jonesboro Middle School, Steppers in Christ of Union Cathedral in Valdosta, McEachern High School in Powder Springs, the Rebecca Padgett School of Performing Arts in Savannah, Riverdale Middle School, W.D. Mohammed High School in Atlanta, and two teams from Lovejoy Middle School in Lovejoy.
Also in the competition are the highly-regarded Dutchtown Middle School step team from Hampton, Henry County. The team performed in the 2007 Ryan Cameron Step Show and has opened for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Hot 107.9 FM radio personality Griffy2K will serve as host for the evening.
For several of the teams, it will be their first or second time in competition. Stacey Bradshaw, coach of the Steppers in Christ of Union Cathedral in Valdosta, said the competition will be a "great opportunity," which may allow the team to achieve non-profit status and buy new uniforms.
"We're typically a ministry team ... we're not a competition team," said Bradshaw. "We try to minister to kids and let them know that it can be fund to be a Christian kid in society today," however, "anytime we can have the kids travel outside the local community, it's a good experience."
Fay Myers-Culverson, a seventh-grade Language Arts teacher, Zeta Phi Beta sorority member, and step-team coach at Jonesboro Middle School, said her students are excited about having the chance to compete.
"They are ready for the challenge," said Myers-Culverson. "Right now, we are practicing everyday. I think the step team itself has taught them discipline, sisterhood, and just being involved in the step show will give them a sense of achievement."
Henderson said in addition to allowing local step teams to earn prize money, the event will also highlight the problems associated with the physical and sexual abuse of children.
"People don't realize how prevalent it is in our community," said Henderson. "One in four girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and one in six boys. We want to raise money and have a good time, but we also want to raise awareness of the dynamics of child abuse and prevention methods."
Tickets are $7 in advance for students, and $10 for adults and those who pay at the door. For more information, call (770) 692-1733 or visit www.rainbowhouseinc.org.