The Fremocentrist.com Art Inventory

An Ask For Donors, Dancing Or Not, For the Bureau of Fearless Ideas

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 2 October 2017

 

Wanna go dancing?!  DYCO is a raucous, free-spirited dance party!  Don't wanna dance?  Consider giving to BFI anyway!

Wanna go dancing?! DYCO is a raucous, free-spirited dance party! Don’t wanna dance? Consider giving to BFI anyway!

On October 21st, from 6p – 10p, the Bureau of Fearless Ideas (BFI) will host ‘Dance Your Cash Off’, a fun and funky fundraising challenge, at Hale’s Palladium in Fremont.  BFI, a creative writing and tutoring center for students ages 6 – 18, has its flagship location behind a storefront in Greenwood – the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co – but the learning center serves children from everywhere.  “We have students that come from all over,” explained M. Louise McKay, Director of Strategic Growth for BFI, “We want to create a community that accepts everyone.”

‘Dance Your Cash Off’ is only one of several fundraisers BFI hosts annually, in order to fund its free programs for all children, regardless of their background and origins.  And there is something ineffably ideal about hosting a raucous, free-spirited and epic dance event, in Fremont.  “It’s a big dance party,” McKay acknowledged, “It’s probably the most fun fundraiser we do.”  They’ve got music, dancing, food and drinks, special guests, plus prizes participants can win for costumes, dancing, Karaoke, and fundraising.  “We have a huge range of prizes,” McKay reported, “from local businesses.”  She mentioned coffee cards, a cat toy basket, gift cards for restaurants, Zoo merch, etc.  “Almost everyone in the room wins something,” she observed.

Support students learning to communicate, using their words wisely, through BFI programs!  Photo provided by BFI

Support students learning to communicate, using their words wisely, through BFI programs! Photo provided by BFI

“There are people who dance for three hours,” McKay explained, but ‘Dance Your Cash Off’ isn’t a dance marathon.  It is peer-to-peer fundraising, as BFI fans and supporters are encouraged to reach out to friends and family, inviting them to the dance party, to donate, and to ask others to donate.  “Using social media, e-mail, door-to-door, phone calls,” McKay observed, however participants feel most comfortable asking their personal network of friends to spread the word about BFI, about its exceptional programing, and about the need for donations (and volunteers.)  “It’s a way to support the organization by reaching out to people you already know,” McKay explained.  Best of all, for participants, the fundraiser takes place on October 21st, but donations can roll in for weeks before.  As McKay observed, “it’s incredibly gratifying to see the way a bunch of small donations can add up!”

Spread The Word

The power of words, well-written and well-spoken, can open doors, and at BFI the tutoring, writing and publishing programs prepare young people for a more successful future, giving them stronger writing skills, an ability with diverse communication styles, and all while motivating students to share their stories, their way.  In 2004, Teri Hein started BFI as an independent non-profit, teaching students a love of words.  In 2005, BFI joined forces with a similar initiative in San Francisco, called 826 Valencia.  United, both non-profits grew, building upon their resources and extending their reach, with students and with funding sources.

Dance Your Cash Off! and have fun knowing that BFI is making a difference in the lives of students around Seattle.  Photo provided by BFI, Fall 2016

Dance Your Cash Off! and have fun knowing that BFI is making a difference in the lives of students around Seattle. Photo provided by BFI, Fall 2016

From the beginning, giving tutoring assistance to school-aged children, for free, whatever their background, was the central mission of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas.  Becoming part 826 National, with its expanded funding sources and access to other resources, helped BFI and allowed it to help more children.  Now with seven 826 centers around the country, in New York, Chicago, Boston, etc., the umbrella organization has begun to standardize and streamline its systems.

So, in 2014, the BFI Board decided to separate from 826.  While not an easy decision, it has allowed the organization to grow its own way, and serve its students with creative freedom, and flexibility.  However, it has also made it even more important for BFI to build up its own network of donors and supporters.  “826 went to standardized systems, serving only low income students,” McKay explained, of one way BFI felt the match no longer worked.  BFI leadership wants to be able to serve all students in need, no matter their income, background or access to services.  “Part of the success of BFI,” McKay observed, “is serving people of all types.”  The center serves a lot of new immigrant children, but the kids can mix in the wide community of children that come to BFI.  This way they learn about inclusivity and acceptance, while working on their communication styles and creative expression.  “Research shows that students do better in integrated classrooms,” McKay explained.

The students at BFI, proud of the center and their accomplishments.  Photo provided by BFI

The students at BFI, proud of the center and their accomplishments. Photo provided by BFI

Four Core Programs

BFI offers four ways for kids to improve in school, and in their self-expression:

  • After School Tutoring – In a spacious, resource-rich, comfortable classroom, elementary, middle, and high school students gather for homework help in all subjects.  They get help with writing, but students can also receive assistance with math, science, foreign languages, etc.  Right now, BFI has a waiting list for this program, which draws students from all over North Seattle, and Shoreline.
  • Field Trips – BFI offers a two-hour writing workshop for classrooms of students, where they work collaboratively, using an interactive method, to create an original story.  The finished product, created following prompts from ‘Mr. Geoduck’ and illustrated by cartoonist David Lasky, is published and every student receives a copy – along with a serious sense of accomplishment.
  • In-Schools Programs – At middle and high schools, BFI-trained volunteers work with teachers and students on a 6- 8 week writing project that supports the current curriculum.  BFI further enhances the experience by collecting the finished work in chapbooks, or organizing a publishing party.
  • Writing Workshops – Over school breaks, holidays and certain Saturdays, BFI opens its classroom for special, focused workshops aimed at particular age groups and/or activities.  To spark imaginations and teach writing fundamentals, past workshops have included song writing, autobiographical collages, fort building, after-the-apocalypse writing, college entrance exams, etc.

‘Spark That Interest’

“We really encourage the students’ to lead with their creativity,” McKay explained.  At BFI, students work on grammar, punctuation, and spelling, but the primary encouragement is for self-expression, with form coming second.  “We’re trying to find what will spark that interest,” she said, “that’s why we have a space travel supply store.  That’s where we start – self-expression – and see where their curiosity will lead them.  We want to make sure they stay interested and engaged.”

Expect surprises and special guests, like Waxie Moon, at the BFI Dance Your Cash Off fundraiser.  Photo provided by BFI

Expect surprises and special guests, like Waxie Moon, at the BFI Dance Your Cash Off fundraiser. Photo provided by BFI

BFI also wants to instill in students a profound sense, “that their voice matters,” McKay observed.  “Different kids need different help,” she said, and instructors know how to reign in students who need help with focusing (they can be encouraged, McKay explained, “to go home and write the sequel!”)  Other students will find encouragement on starting with tools such as a pre-built box of writing prompts, or a set of specific questions, when the pressure of developing an original idea on the spur of the moment overwhelms them.

This Fall, the BFI model will be expanded more fully into South Seattle as the center realizes a long-held dream – to open a satellite program in the Seattle Housing Authority Yesler Terrace development.  “We feel our first mission there is to meet the community and find out what is needed.  To get to know the school and the students,” McKay observed.  The BFI leadership want to figure out the best ways they can meet the needs of the students there.  “We’re trying to be modest in our expectations,” McKay acknowledged, at least to start.  (Read more about the plans in a blog post by BFI Executive Director Andreas ‘Andy’ Herbst.)

Another way to support BFI is shopping at the Greenwood Travel Supply Store, standing in front of the learning center.  Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Sep '17

Another way to support BFI is shopping at the Greenwood Travel Supply Store, standing in front of the learning center. Photo by K. Lindsay Laney, Sep ’17

‘Dance Your Cash Off’

Yet, even with modest expectations at Yesler Terrace, BFI must step up fundraising, as they begin to offer the same quality educational assistance at two locations.  This is where ‘Dance Your Cash Off’ comes in.

On October 21st, in addition to dancing and celebrating, BFI hopes to raise $30,000, for North and Central Seattle.  Best of all, it’s easy to help.

Visit the DYCO website to find out about teams already participating on October 21st, or register your own.  Or visit it just to donate!  Those who want to see more opportunities for children to build communication skills, and learn a love of words, can also stop by and shop the Greenwood Travel Supply Co, or donate directly to BFI through the FearlessIdeas.org website.

 

 


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©2017 Kirby Laney.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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