College Dance Team Central

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Despite Canceled Flight, Dance Team Heads To Nationals

Team members "incredibly grateful" for large grant, private donations

By Kate Shefte
Technician Online

In a time when they should have been putting the final touches on their outfits and routines, the N.C. State Dance team was scrambling to find money for plane tickets. The team purchased their tickets to a national competition in Daytona Beach, Fla., with Skybus, a low-cost carrier that declared bankruptcy late Friday afternoon, and had yet to receive a refund.

"All we're worried about is getting to nationals," Kayla Anderson, a senior in communication, said Sunday. "If we have to walk, we're going to get there."

The team will not have to resort to such desperate measures. Thanks to an outpour of media coverage and public support, the team has raised enough funds to book additional flights on Southwest Airlines and will depart Wednesday morning.

The News and Observer, WRAL and News 14 Carolina were just a few of the media outlets that alerted the public to the dancers' plight, and once the news was out, the donations began pouring in.

"The media coverage has definitely helped," senior captain Lauren Strasser said. "People have called in and wanted to donate and send money to us in checks. The Student Government has tried to help us, and everyone is wanting to help out."

Strasser's father was in contact with Bobby Purcell, executive director of the Wolfpack Club, and Strasser spent most of Monday hammering out details. The team would require even more money in order to purchase tickets at the last minute, but the Wolfpack Club generously donated two times the $3,000 that was initially paid to Skybus.

"It turned out that we were offered $6,000 from him so that we could send the 16 of us that are dancing on the national's stage -- plus our two coaches -- down there tomorrow morning on Southwest airlines," Strasser said. "We're so incredibly grateful for all the help that the Wolfpack Club and Bobby Purcell have given us."

The group of girls left on a chartered bus at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning with State's cheerleading squad, which is headed to Daytona for its own competition this Saturday.

"The only thing that I wish could have been different is that we could all go together, but as long as we get there," senior captain Ashley Beasley said. "It'll be fun. We're really thankful that we can go."

In addition to the help with funds, the team received the support of the NDA, or the National Dance Association. When the group heard about what had happened, they were able to rearrange the team's accommodations.

"They've been working with us with through this whole thing, and the girls that had to go down early because of our situation get to use our hotel room a day early, for free," Beasley said.

According to Beasley, the turbulence that the team has experienced en route to nationals will make them stronger in the competition, saying it added "the extra fuel to our fire."

"I feel like there's a lot of eyes on us now," Beasley said. "All those people, whether they donated 50 cents or $100, want to know that we're making the most of the money they gave us."

The team placed tenth last year at Nationals, with only the top five earning the chance to have their routine performed on national television.

"We're hoping that we can tell everyone that supported us to watch us on CBS in about two weeks," Beasley said.

Beasley's mother, who had intended to fly to Daytona and see her daughter, is now unable to make the trip. With two additional airlines shutting down in the past week alone, the trend does not seem to be correcting itself.

"It's affecting a lot of people across the country, and we're obviously not the only ones," Beasley said.