Talent ascends for a cause - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Talent ascends for a cause

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Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2009 1:04 pm | Updated: 2:51 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Linda Turley-Hansen: Whatta’ ya do when the economy is in the tank, yet you need to keep a critically important charity in the black? The Mesa-based Breast Cancer Society figured out one popular solution, by tapping into young, hungry talent and setting off a buzz in the East Valley that is rippling through the high schools.

Whatta’ ya do when the economy is in the tank, yet you need to keep a critically important charity in the black? The Mesa-based Breast Cancer Society figured out one popular solution, by tapping into young, hungry talent and setting off a buzz in the East Valley that is rippling through the high schools.

But, it’s not a one-way street. How does a young artist become recognized? It’s not easy, and every one of them will tell you so.

Thus, for the purpose of helping breast cancer patients, the combination is a perfect partnership.

Here’s the deal: The Breast Cancer Society is hosting “East Valley Idol.” This fall, teens (150 in number) from five high schools competed in talent shows in search of the best vocalists.

The five champs are now set to compete at a big blowout with the finale at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10. The audience picks the winner.

In harmony with the cause, free mammograms will be available from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for the first 50 women attending the event. Santa Claus will be on site, and a silent auction will provide fun Christmas shopping.

Kristina DuPuis, director of corporate donations, created the talent search and tells me that the high schools immediately embraced the project. In fact, they added other campus events to support the drive.

What you’ll want to know is women like 40-year-old Rhonda Mieldon of Gilbert rely on services provided by the society. This mother of five, including a son who attends Williams Field High School, is battling the disease that ignores economic downturns.

She receives monthly financial assistance and other services from the charity. It’s good to know monies raised at local events are kept in Arizona, and the charity currently serves nearly four dozen patients and their families and provides support to other charities such as hospice.

Back to the winners. It was my pleasure recently to meet the five, who were preening for their big night. They all agree they love “the rush” of performing; it’s those accolades, you know.

Rachel Kimball, a senior at Gilbert’s Higley High School, comes from a family of musicians. She’s multitalented, including writing lyrics, and has performed and competed most of her young life.

Tiana Ricciardi, a sophomore at Combs High School in San Tan Valley, is intent on making show business her life. Her mom is supportive as long as she develops a backup plan. Tiana insists that show business is her backup plan.

Emily Gibson, a senior at Mesa’s Desert Ridge High School, has been singing “since her first breath.” Her stage presence, her “big personality,” enhances her gift of music.

Kaley Gilchrist, a sophomore at Queen Creek High School, also composes and plays guitar. From a musical family, her talents were easily discovered early.

The youngest and only male is freshman Tyler Wise of Williams Field High School. Tyler also comes from a musical family and views his win as an “opportunity to put myself out there.” Watching him around the older, female students, clearly this young man is not intimidated by his competition.

Philanthropy is certainly on the minds of these winners, but, let’s face it, the prizes they’ve already won — even before the final competition — matter too.

They’ll be coached by top professionals on the art of show business, will receive their own private photo shoot, and will audition in front of multiple talent agents in January. And, that’s not even the big prize, yet to be announced. Not a bad deal for kids looking for a break.

In the meantime, women in trouble get the help they need during one of the worst times in their lives. Overall, it’s a very good deal. See you there.

Linda Turley-Hansen is a syndicated columnist and former veteran Phoenix television news anchor who lives in the East Valley. She can be reached by e-mail at turleyhansen@gmail.com.

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