It was yet another incredibly successful edition of the 4th Annual “Zumba For Hope” Friday night. The event, organized by “Learning For Hope” and Linda Raponi of “Zumba Love Pure Energy Fitness” brought together the students of St. Mary Catholic Secondary School and the zumba-loving communities in Pickering and all over Durham Region on a sizzling night of Zumba dancing, fun, laughter, high energy but most importantly the generous spirit of a vibrant and giving group of people all united for a great cause: All the proceeds from Zumba For Hope will go directly to Canadian Aid for Education (CAFE), which supports projects in Peru, El Salvador, Chile and the Dominican Republic. Learning For Hope, the youth branch of Canadian Aid for Education, is led tirelessly by St. Mary CSS school teacher, Andrew McLaughlin. The non-profit charity organization’s fantastic group of volunteers– a large number of them St. Mary CSS students, but also members of the Pickering community at large– raise funds throughout the year in support of education programs in developing countries, playing a pivotal role in the development of all the communities they work with.
Andrew McLaughlin, the Founder of Learning for Hope, is excited to see how much his organization has grown since it first planted roots in 2008, “For me, it is an honour that so many beautiful and inspiring people want to be a part of our project. Zumba for Hope has raised thousands of dollars over the last three years, but the best part is that it has inspired others to get involved. Learning For Hope is proof that community is a more powerful motivator than charity.”
Zumba For Hope is Learning for Hope’s largest fundraising effort of the year. We at Alma Latina Magazine have been witness to the amazing community spirit this event encompasses, as we have reported in previous years and have continued to be a part of and report on over the years. This year, without a doubt, has been the best one yet, not only for the incredible efforts of Pure Energy Fitness’ Linda Raponi and her team of volunteers, along with all the Learning For Hope volunteers, but also because of the immeasurable support of a community who year after year attend in droves: Almost 300 people filled up St. Mary’s cafeteria this year, an incredible feat that can only be attributed to how much this community cares for and believes in this worthwhile cause. The night was made all that much more special having Panama/Toronto successful urban artist Fito Blanko join the crowd for the event. Blanko, a Mississauga native who has a long and very successful music career in the Latin Urban genre, and whose latest hit “Meneo” was featured in the latest instalment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, happily accepted CP24’s Weather Specialist Mika Midolo’s invitation to attend the event. He became an impromptu Zumba instructor for the night– along with Raponi, Zumba Pickering’s instructor Heidi Tsinokas and Kathryn Fowles, of Kathryn Zumba Norway, who flew directly from Norway just for the event. With such generosity of spirit from everyone involved, it is no surprise the event was (and continues to be) such a big success.
“Words can not express my gratitude for all the people who helped make Zumba for Hope 4 the best one yet,” said McLaughlin in a Facebook post. “Your generosity never ceases to amaze me. Finally, all of the Zumba addicts and the beautiful members of the St. Mary community…I am blown away by your love and passion.”
Raponi was equally touched by the support of the community, as she expressed on her Facebook page as well: “There is something so incredibly powerful to be said about our community when we unite together as we did for ZFH #4 last night. Reflecting on last nights event, we have build a culture that is so uniquely compassionate and giving that I am so blessed to be a part of it. We united together through dance and showed our love and support for our community afar. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who has embraced Learning For Hope last night by getting involved in whichever capacity it was. To do really great work takes the support of many and I have personally grown from this experience and feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many good people.”