You could say Abigail Thompson is a “Dancing Queen.”
The 15-year-old Westlake High School sophomore has been dancing in Pacific Ballet Festival’s shows since the fourth grade. She’s been studying dance and musical theater for even longer. That’s why it’s a natural move that she’ll be performing the classic ABBA song at the inaugural Charity Karaoke Sing for a Cause fundraiser Sept. 21.
Abigail will be raising money for Pacific Ballet, but scores of local nonprofits supporting kids, seniors and those in between stand to benefit as their representatives also perform and vie for a $1,000 cash prize.
The fundraiser is the brainchild of Thousand Oaks resident Laura Conway. Though she’s technically just a tad young to qualify for the Conejo Senior Volunteer Program—made up of people 55 and older—that is hosting the competition, Conway, 54, gives of her time wherever she feels best suited.
Conejo SVP matches people who want to serve with organizations that need help. Around 1,000 volunteers plant gardens, tutor children, program computers, assist seniors in living independently and serve in many other ways.
Conway, who had recently retired from working professionally for a nonprofit organization, put her talents to use making videos for and writing about the various nonprofit groups in the community. As she learned about the groups’ fundraising challenges, she began thinking about how to make things easier for them.
“I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great if all these nonprofits could join forces and team up together with one big event, and I wondered what would that look like,” Conway said.
It wasn’t long before she came upon the idea of having an American Idol-style fundraiser where participants would sing and audience members could vote on the winners.
She brought her idea to CSVP director Julie Spivack, who embraced it wholeheartedly.
Here’s how it works: Nonprofits choose a representative (or representatives) to sing, and money is raised via ticket sales and donations. Then on the night of the event—starting at 6 p.m. Fri., Sept. 21 at Borderline in Thousand Oaks—audience members, in person and those watching via live streaming, vote for the winners, who receive the additional cash price for their associated nonprofit.
“Not only are the organizations raising money but we’re learning about some of them and they’re learning about one another,” Spivack said.
So successful have Conway’s recruitment efforts been, in fact, there’s not room for all the nonprofits that want to participate.
One that did get in is the Conejo Schools Foundation, whose singer is none other than CVUSD Superintendent Mark McLaughlin.
“I have zero singing background and I don’t do a lot of karaoke or even singing in the car,” McLaughlin said. “You’re going to get it as raw as it comes when it comes to singing.”
Though it’s well outside his comfort zone, the superintendent agreed to take the challenge when asked because he said it sounded like fun and, more importantly, it raises money for a good cause.
“I think supporting the district and our kids is my No. 1 priority,” he said. McLaughlin will be crooning Rick Springfield’s 1981 hit, “Jessie’s Girl.”
Others “singers” signed up for Charity Karaoke:
CRPD administrator Tom Hare as Elvis for Play Conejo
Marty McCoy for Community Conscience
Goebel Center Supervisor Patty Hamm for CSVP
CRPD Director Chuck Huffer and Katy Porter for the Kiwanis Club of Thousand Oaks
Jim Wisdom and Nancy LaSota for Rotary Club of Westlake Village Sunrise
Kailee McFerran for Young Artists Ensemble
Dr. Ron de la Peña for Conejo Community Outreach Courtesy of Play Conejo
Thousand Oaks Deputy Cultural Affairs Director Jonathan Serret for TO Arts
Marc Bachrach for Conejo Valley Village
Joanna Burns for Court Appointed Special Advocates
Amber Durbin for Reins of Hope
Amy Buss for Conejo Valley Pride
Nelson Buss for Thomas Fire Help
Thrive Dance Center’s Jennifer Maples for Manna, Conejo Valley food bank
Thomas Adams for No Limits
Melanie Lindgren for Stagecoach Inn
And Thousand Oaks Acorn’s Kyle Jorrey and Dawn Megli-Thuna singing on behalf of James Storehouse.
For information about any of the organizations or to purchase tickets or donate, visit the event website at charitykaraoke.org.
For those who can’t make it to the event, the Conejo Senior Volunteer Program Facebook page will be streaming it live.
Win or not, there are no losers, Abigail, the event’s youngest participant, said.
“I think in the end all the charities walk out as winners because it really helps to promote the charities and raise some money,” she said.