Jackpot! Riverside raises ‘slots’ of funds for ed programs


Cheers of victory and groans of disappointment emanated from Riverside’s Orchid Lobby over two weekends at the Vegas Nights fundraisers at Riverside Theatre, where assorted casino tables and slot machines offered players a chance to experience the thrill of the games while betting on the betterment of children.

There were no losers, as every wager went toward funding scholarships for Riverside’s education programs, as well as for a new Educational Initiative “Version 2.0” kicking off this fall.

While Riverside has always integrated education and community outreach throughout its 50-year history, this new collaborative is aimed at increasing youth-based outreach partnerships with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Environmental Learning Center, Gifford Youth Achievement Center, Gifford Youth Orchestra and Youth Guidance Mentoring Academy.

The initiative is being overseen by Jon Moses, Riverside’s managing director/COO; Adam Schnell, Riverside’s director of dance education and founding artistic director/CEO of Ballet Vero Beach; and Kevin Quillinan, Riverside’s director of theater education, who has reached out to the nonprofits and will coordinate the project with them.

To ensure inclusivity, Riverside will be working alongside the agencies, and will bring some of the programming to the nonprofit facilities themselves, as transportation is often an issue.

For example, Riverside staff will provide coaching assistance in such areas as art, acting and dance to Boys and Girls Club enrollees who are participating in a National Arts Contest that recognizes their visual, digital and performing arts talents, and will then assist with the judging in December. They are also exploring the possibility of a bilingual program at the BGC Fellsmere club, with Spanish language instructors teaching dance, singing and theater classes.

Ideas to incorporate Gifford Youth Orchestra members include finding ways to showcase GYO musicians on the Riverside campus at productions and events. Another thought is to have teaching artists visit Dodgertown Elementary School to provide afterschool classes in dance or theater.

With Youth Guidance, Riverside hopes to provide a theater arts program with instructors offering weekly classes in drama, dance and music, culminating in revue-style performances at Youth Guidance and during the Winterfest weekend.

Riverside Theatre would also like to organize a trip for Gifford Youth Achievement Center students to take part in the January 2024 Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta; funded by Riverside through a generous legacy donation. Prior to the trip, Quillinan and Schnell would work with students to create a junior musical to be performed in part at JTF and in full on stage at Riverside.

Another proposal is to take some of the Riverside Children’s Center productions to a new venue, utilizing the pavilion at the Environmental Learning Center.

Plans are to have all the nonprofit participants take part in some fashion with the newly rebranded Winterfest: Festival of Trees weekend, which will feature greater community participation, especially among children. The weekend will kick off with an evening gala on Thursday Nov. 30, followed by the festival weekend, Dec. 1-3.

For more information, visit RiversideTheatre.com.

Photos by Joshua Kodis and Mary Schenkel

Leave a Comment