ETHS dance troupe kicks up practices, fund raising as national competition nears

Shelly Banjo and Shelly Banjo

The Evanston Township High School Pomkits are preparing to shimmy their way to the National Dance Team Championship in Orlando, Fla., in January, thanks to their hard work and generous donations of the community.

The team comprises 18 girls who practice three times a week and perform at ETHS football and basketball games. This summer at a dance camp at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, they competed against other varsity dance teams to qualify for the national competition. The camp was sponsored by the Universal Dance Association.

Not only did the team garner third place with its routine, but the dancers also won the leadership award, which is voted on by every camp participant. The third-place trophy qualified the Pomkits for the championship, sponsored by dance team uniform maker Varsity, but members worried they wouldn’t be able to raise enough money to attend.

“The girls have watched this dance competition on ESPN every year and knew that an ETHS team qualified a few years ago but could not raise enough money to go,” said Nichole Eason, the Pomkits coach.

The parents of the girls came to the rescue and immediately organized a fund-raising committee. They were aware of the financial situation and wanted the team to focus on its routines.

“The parents were really determined to see the girls go and were the biggest support,” Eason said.

The parents were not the only ones to contribute to the $14,000 goal, though. The Pomkits wrote letters to their families and friends explaining what they were doing and asking for donations. They also gave up many Saturdays to sell T-shirts, stuffed bears, cookie dough and baked goods. They even held a Junior Pomkit clinic for 61 girls in third through sixth grades. The clinic resulted in a Junior Pomkit performance at an ETHS football game.

Some members of the community made a special effort to help the Pomkits. At the Evanston City Council meeting Nov. 10, Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) announced that he was going to contribute to the Pomkits’ cause and encouraged others to support the group.

“Anything that carries the glory of Evanston forward helps everyone,” Bernstein said. “The Pomkits have worked so hard, they shouldn’t be denied the chance to go to the competition because of money.”

The Pomkits still needed $4,100 when a local newscaster saw an article about the girls in the Chicago Tribune and decided to donate to the cause. The newscaster asked to remain anonymous.

“He didn’t give us the money for publicity or recognition,” Eason said. “He honestly wanted the girls to go to the competition.”

Now that they have enough money to attend the championships Jan. 30, the Pomkits have been working hard for the national competition.

“We saw tapes of last year’s competition and we have a big challenge ahead of us,” said Abby Mintz, an ETHS senior.

With a new choreographer, the Pomkits are taking on a new style and are spending a lot of time practicing.

“Our team gets along really well and has a lot of character,” Mintz said. “We are so excited to go to nationals and very thankful of all the generous donations we have received.”