5-year-old boy dies after crash

How SPARC is helping stoke Richmond’s creative community

RICHMOND, Va. -- Erin Thomas Foley and Desiree Roots believe they know the key to a well-rounded, successful life: An appreciation of the performing arts especially from an early age.

Foley, the Director of Education at The School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, or SPARC, helps young people blossom both on and off the stage.

"We need a revolution of hearts. We need hearts and minds to be open," Thomas-Foley said. "The arts are the vehicle and we will do it. These children are answering the call and they want to find their voices."

Desiree Roots, a Richmond native whose parents were performers, started singing when she was just four years old and has not stopped.

"It impacts your life. It becomes a part of your life. And it keeps your life going," Roots said. "Can’t have a day without music or without something artistic."

Thomas-Foley and Roots practice what they preach.

The women, along with a team of performers and volunteers, are putting the final touches on “SPARC’s: Live Art Love.”

The stage spectacular features SPARC alum Jason Mraz, and singers Michael McDonald, Josh Groban, and Desiree Roots.

"It gives you a spark, so SPARC is a perfect word for this organization," Roots said. "Live Art is so addicting."

Sunday’s annual extravaganza features 300 able bodied and disabled young people.

"I’m so excited for the kids. I mean this is everything for them. They feel like super heroes. They feel like rock stars," Erin said.

The performers work throughout the year for this one show.

"A lot of work but it is worth it," Erin said.

During the days, weeks, and months of rehearsals, the boys and girls build relationships through acceptance, compassion, and empathy.

Erin and Desiree said on this day the Grammy winners took a backseat to the real stars of the show.

"The kids are the superstars," Desiree said. "It is magical. It is energizing. It is revitalizing. It is spiritual."

The performance also teaches life lessons which will be felt long after the curtain comes down.

"Richmond has the power to drive this forward and say ‘Hey we have a message for the world. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep sharing it and we’re going to keep helping people,” Erin said.

The sixth annual SPARC’s Live Art Love show this Sunday at Altria Theatre is sold out. But if you are interested in exposing your child to the performing arts SPARC is holding a series of summer camps that begin later this month.

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If you know of someone with an interesting story to tell email Greg McQuade.