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For American School of Inspiration students, philanthropy is a 'mission'

Left to right, Mikki Hommel, New York, and Aly Cardinalli, dean of the American School of Inspiration, watch as Colleen Laverty, 18, Mt. Airy, performs during a rehearsal for "Smooth Criminal, The Michael Jackson Experience." Students will perform in a fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League this Saturday.
Left to right, Mikki Hommel, New York, and Aly Cardinalli, dean of the American School of Inspiration, watch as Colleen Laverty, 18, Mt. Airy, performs during a rehearsal for "Smooth Criminal, The Michael Jackson Experience." Students will perform in a fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League this Saturday. (Kim Hairston / Carroll County Times)

To Aly Cardinalli, director of the American School of Inspiration in Damascus, one of the most overlooked abilities of artistic individuals is their capability to give back.

To help inspire his students to offer up their talents to those in need, the school is hosting its first major fundraising concert, "Oh for the Love of Pets," Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster.

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The event features performers from the school's Visionary Dance Company and Empower Theater Group, as well as performances by soloists Tibby Cosham, Christina Von Norman, Allie Benedik, Linda Michele and Imani Nokuri, with funds going to support the Animal Welfare League.

"It's a mission of ours for kids to have performing opportunities, but it's also our mission to give back to the community," Cardinalli said. "Performers can often forget that they have a way to give back through their gift."

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According to Debbie Amoss, who works with the school, the students were given a choice to travel to Boston for a series of classes and a performance, or use the money that would be spent on the trip to rent a venue for a fundraising performance. She said they unanimously decided to use their talents to help the animals at the Animal Welfare League.

The shelter is a no-kill organization in Frederick County that works to find homes for animals in the area. In the future, Amoss said, she sees the benefit concert raising money for different animal organizations each year.

Damascus, Md--8/6/16--Right, Colleen Laverty, 18, Mt. Airy, dances during the American School of Inspiration rehearsal for "Smooth Criminal, The Michael Jackson Experience." Students will perform in a fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League this Saturday. Kim Hairston/BSMG Staff. #18466.
Damascus, Md--8/6/16--Right, Colleen Laverty, 18, Mt. Airy, dances during the American School of Inspiration rehearsal for "Smooth Criminal, The Michael Jackson Experience." Students will perform in a fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League this Saturday. Kim Hairston/BSMG Staff. #18466. (Kim Hairston / Carroll County Times)

During the show, about 20 performers from the school's dance company and singers will perform, alternating roles throughout the 90-minute show. Cardinalli said the music will range from rock songs to the pop hits of today. In addition to the songs, the dancers will perform an array of pieces, from modern dance to an "Avatar"-inspired piece to numbers from "Hairspray Live!"

The performance will also feature numbers by soloists from Glenwood High School. Amoss said they were originally hoping for more guest artists, but the condensed time frame they had to put together the show limited the number of extra performers they could find.

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"We made this decision at the end of December, and didn't expect that the only time the theater would have available would be in February," Amoss said. "We started on the fifth of January and managed to pull all of this off."

In addition to the performances, the event will feature a silent auction of over a dozen baskets of donated items from local businesses, catnip pillows created by local Girl Scout troops, boxes for food and pet supply donations by local Boy Scout troops, and artwork created by middle school students.

Prior to the concert, the event will also feature a free photo booth where guests can dress up in theatrical clothes, and Iced Gems will sell specially designed cupcakes. Amoss said she's been impressed with how many organizations have donated their time and money to the event.

"It's almost a four-county event," Amoss said. "We've got the Animal Welfare League in Frederick, the studio is on the line of Montgomery and Howard, almost all the parents live in Howard and Carroll, and the theater and majority of supporting businesses are in Carroll."

In future years, with more planning time, Amoss said they hope to see the annual fundraising concert grow, to incorporate more local talent, more input from schools and more contributions from local animal organizations.

Cardinalli said seeing people come together to support the arts and to support a good cause is the most inspiring thing about being an artist. He said that after a serious injury that left him in a wheelchair for a time, he realized the role art has to play in people's lives.

"It was then I realized I still had so much to give. There were people in my situation who didn't have the opportunity to see the performing arts and I made it my mission to go out and perform for them," Cardinalli said. "Everyone needs entertainment. It reminds us of our humanity and provides an escape from the daily problems of our lives. Just by entertaining, we're making the world a little bit of a better place, and if we look, there are always opportunities to do more."

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If you go

What: "Oh for the Love of Pets"

When: Activities from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11. Show begins at 3 p.m.

Where: Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster

Cost: $12 in advance; $15 at the door

For more information: Visit www.asinspiration.com.



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