Dance raises funds for Williams-Ledger Elementary backpack program

By BRITTANY FHOLER 
Cove Leader-Press 

The Copperas Cove Five Hills Scholarship Pageant royalty hosted the second annual Lil’ Dawg and Lady Dawg Homecoming Dance at the Copperas Cove Civic Center Saturday afternoon. 
Proceeds from the ticket sales for the dance benefitted Junior Mister Five Hills Jackson Gibbs’ platform of service, Blessings in a Backpack, which is a program that provides seven meals for kids in need to take home over the weekend, so they do not go without. The program will be implemented at Gibbs’ school, J.L. Williams-Lovett Ledger Elementary School. 
Gibbs, who is a first-grader and only 6-years-old, said he chose this as his platform because he wanted to help kids that don’t have food for the weekend. 
“My friends at school are hungry, and I don’t want them to be hungry anymore,” he said. 
When Gibbs held his lemonade stand at Bush’s Chicken during National Lemonade Day in May, he raised more than $600 to go towards his platform. On Saturday, the Copperas Cove Walmart presented a check for $500 and the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant presented a check for $1,918.43 to go to CCISD for the Blessings in a Backpack program. The $1,918.43 represented the prior ticket sales for the dance, according to volunteer pageant director Wendy Sledd. 
Gibbs said he was happy at the amount of money raised for the Blessings in a Backpack program. 
This program will be the first of its kind implemented at an elementary school in the district, according to Sledd, who is also the communications director for Copperas Cove ISD. The Copperas Cove High School DECA chapter has previously implemented a similar program at the high school level for several years. Sledd said the goal is to eventually expand the program to ever campus in Copperas Cove. 
“At CCISD, we know that at least 70 percent of our students are on a free and reduced meal plan because they fill out the applications, but we also know that there are many parents who for whatever reason aren’t able to complete the application, so we know actually the percentage is much higher for our students that would go hungry if they were not being fed in the school district,” Sledd said. “So what happens when they are not in the school district and they’re home on weekends? That’s what this program is for, to send meals home- one meal on Friday for dinner, three meals on Saturday and three meals on Sunday- and then they come back to school. Their tummies are full, they’re well-rested and they’re ready to focus on their academics.”
Sledd said that CCISD focuses on more than just taking care of a child academically. 
“We work to take care of the whole child and that would be emotionally, mentally, physically and socioeconomically, and so that’s where this program comes into play,” she added. 
The Lil’ Dawg and Lil’ Lady Dawg Homecoming Dance was started last year by the 2018 Junior Miss Five Hills Dorianna Gilbert to raise funds for her platform of service, which was Dyslexia Awareness. This year saw the attendance more than double, with a majority of the tickets sold in advance but some parents and children purchasing at the door. Sledd estimated that there were more than 200 people in attendance. 
Tickets were sold for $10 each or $100 for a VIP table. VIP ticket holders received a mum or garter for the kids plus a professional photo and gift cards from Raising Cane’s for the parents. 
Additional funds were raised at the dance through the sales of mums and garters made by Edna Torres, mother of Young Miss Five Hills Angelica Torres, for $5 each.  
For those who wanted their own professional photo but didn’t buy a VIP ticket, accommodations were made, with photos sold for $5. 
Chick-fil-A provided chicken nuggets, Raising Cane’s provided the beverages, H-E-B Plus! gave a $200 community grant which went towards additional food, and the Copperas Cove Education Foundation helped with lots of the decorations. The Athletic Department loaned out football helmets for décor. 
Sledd said that the expenses to put on the dance were low with the help of these donations, which allowed for more money raised to go towards feeding the kids in need. 
“One of the reasons I love Copperas Cove is because the community does really come out for whatever the initiative is, and who doesn’t want a child to not go hungry?” Sledd said. “So I think a lot of the attendance is due to the cause, but much of it is also due to the fact that they can come and have a great time but also know that they’re helping another child just like theirs who might otherwise go hungry.”
 

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