The Joffrey Ballet announced that Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” has made a substantial leadership gift to support and enhance the ongoing work of the Joffrey’s Bridge Program, a dance education residency in Chicago Public Schools.
In recognition of this gift, the program will now be known as The Joffrey Ballet Lemonis Bridge Program, according to a press release. The Joffrey Ballet is led by Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.
The Bridge Program provides Chicago Public School students in grades 1 and 2 with a highly structured dance experience where they develop life skills such as listening, following directions and respect; engage in creative expression; and practice physical awareness and healthy lifestyle choices. This program serves primarily African American and Latino children with more than 90% of the young students coming from low income households. It is designed to introduce children, who normally would not have any opportunity to explore classical dance, to the basic elements of classical ballet and may ultimately identify and train the next generation of dancers.
Lemonis’ gift will guarantee that the Bridge Program – which currently reaches over 400 students each year – will continue to engage Chicago’s children for the next decade while at the same time expanding the number of teaching artists, schools and students served annually.
“In light of the recent school closings and budget cuts in the Chicago Public School system, so much of the basic structure that the children need in their lives has been altered. Giving our youths a solid beginning can make a huge impact in his or her life and it has been proven that the arts positively impact our young people’s physical health, discipline, focus and social skills,” said Lemonis. “As a child, I was given an opportunity that enabled me to pursue my passions and I am honored to offer assistance to the Joffrey’s Bridge Program as it is undeniable how valuable – how crucial – programs like this are to maintaining a balanced education and having a long-lasting positive impact for the children, who are truly our future. I encourage the community members and businesses to embrace and support this program.”