Overland Park & Leawood

Barstow students plan benefit to ease hunger in Haiti

Grace McGowan and her friends are dancing for chicken — but it’s not your average chicken dance.

The group of middle-schoolers is putting on a talent show Sunday to raise money to help buy chickens for a group of orphans in Haiti through the Kansas City-based Global Orphan Project.

Different kids in the group will sing, dance, play piano and perform dramatic readings. They tried to choose popular songs that were “uplifting and powerful,” Grace said, like will.i.am’s “Hall of Fame” and “Somewhere in Brooklyn” by Bruno Mars.

“It’s a good way to put together talent and a great way to raise money,” said 14-year-old Grace of Overland Park. “It also helps make the community aware of Haiti.”

She already loved to sing and dance, so she recruited a group of her friends at The Barstow School to join her onstage for the benefit. Because they’re raising money to buy chickens and the majority of the group is girls, they call the benefit Chicks For Haiti.

They’ve been working on the show since January. The group’s initial goal was to raise $1,000 — enough to buy the orphans 100 chickens to eat with their staple diet of beans and rice, but the kids are hoping to earn more.

According to Grace, each chicken donated translates into 10 meals for the orphans. One hundred chickens would mean 1,000 meals.

At the performance, the kids will post a picture on the wall of an orphan holding a chicken for every $10 they receive to give people an idea of who they are helping.

“At the end of the night, people can see where their money has gone and what good they’re doing,” Grace said.

Indian Creek Community Church in Olathe donated the use of the performance space, and Bellezza Tan and Salon of Brookside will do all the kids’ hair and makeup for free. Village Video Productions will film the event and make DVDs at a discounted rate.

Local merchants have donated refreshments so that the concessions profits can toward buying chickens as well. The performers will also bake items for the concessions stand.

Helping orphans is a cause dear to Grace, whose family adopted her younger sister, Gabrielle, from China when Grace was in second grade. She visited the orphanage in China when her family brought Gabrielle home.

Grace has sponsored two children in Lesotho and Uganda through charitable donations and now corresponds with them as a pen pal.

“I remember being in third grade and drawing the layout for an orphanage I wanted to build,” Grace said. “I’ve wanted to help orphans since I was little.”

Grace and five other kids will take a trip to the orphanage in Haiti with a group of their parents over Memorial Day weekend to see the kids they are helping.

“Even though we’ve seen pictures and videos, it’s still going to be shocking. You haven’t seen anything like it in your life,” said Kennedy Dockhorn of Leawood, one of the students who will sing and dance in the show.

Kennedy is also excited to help kids in another country.

“It gave me a chance to open my eyes and see beyond Kansas City,” she said. “I just love kids, and I love helping people.”

Kennedy and Grace have each completed about 200 hours of volunteer service each this school year, and they’ve handed out more than 100 fliers and letters asking people to support this project.

“It’s something we can do to make a difference,” Grace said. “For just $10, you can make a difference in an orphan’s life. I think it’s important to see that you don’t need to change the world to help. You can do things like this.”