The Rainbow Project hosts 10th annual “Rhumba 4 Rainbow”
by A. David Dahmer
The Rainbow Project hosted its 10th annual “Rhumba 4 Rainbow” benefit Friday, Sept. 5 at the Varsity Hall at Union South.
The community celebrated and supported the work of The Rainbow Project, a non-profit child and family counseling and resource clinic, with Latin music, dancing, food, community awards, and a raffle and silent auction. Rhumba 4Rainbow annually brings together Rainbow Project Executive Director Sharyl Kato's two passions —the work she does with the Rainbow Project and salsa dancing — into one great event.
“Salsa is a great love of mine … so bringing the two loves together is amazing,” Kato tells The Madison Times. “Rhumba 4 Rainbow is really about the community coming together and embracing the Rainbow Project mission.
“The event was a huge success. It was amazing — better than ever,” Kato adds. “It was very special celebrating our 10th anniversary. When we first came up with this idea for Rhumba 4 Rainbow, we never imagined that it would become this successful.”
The Rainbow Project Inc. is a private, non-profit organization, providing services to children and families experiencing the effects of trauma, neglect, attachment issues, witness to domestic violence and other biological and environmental stressors.
The Rainbow Project provides treatment and other related services to children and families residing in Madison and throughout Dane County.
The very first Rhumba 4 Rainbow 10 years ago had 181 people in attendance. Kato estimates that there were about 750 attendees at this year’s annual gala event. Emcees of the event were Jason Salus of Radisson Hotels and Dani Maxwell, Channel 27 Wake-Up Wisconsin co-anchor.
The Celebrity Dance Challenge featured Ashley Matthews, NBC 15 weekday anchor; Brandon Taylor, 27 News Wake Up anchor; Mary Jo Ola, WISC-TV reporter; Ismael Ozanne, Dane County district attorney; Mahlon Mitchell state president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin; and Gloria Reyes, detective for the Special Investigations Unit for the City of Madison Police Department.
Mitchell prevailed as champion. There was also a competition for prizes in the Annual Madison Salsa Championship, dance lessons, a silent auction, raffle and celebrity guests who served as judges and presenters.
The evening closed out with music by Madison’s favorite 11-piece Latin band Grupo Candela.
Kato says that one of the things The Rainbow Project is doing more is collaborating and partnering with other agencies around town and promoting their events, too. “It seems as funding gets tighter, the more adversarial people can become … But the kids lose when people just look out for themselves. It’s a disservice to the children and families. We need a strong Centro Hispano. We need a strong Urban League. We feel like it’s important to support and promote other organizations that are doing great things.”
One way that The Rainbow Project does that at the Rhumba for Rainbow event is by presenting its Extra Mile Awards to individuals who have demonstrated "exceptional advocacy for children and families.” Over the past 34 years, The Rainbow
Project staff members and board of directors have established a tradition of recognizing exceptional individuals whom they admire because of their dedication, leadership, and strong, unflinching advocacy for children and families in our community
This year’s Extra Mile Award 2014 Award recipients were:
• Wisconsin Council on Children and Families
• The Rainbow Project Strategic Advisory Council; Linda Reivitz, Dr. Martin Preizler and Paul Domann
• Solare O'Brien, Social Worker at Dane County Human Services
• Christie Howell-Yrios, Executive Director at Animal Crackers
• Cory Foster, Educational Assistant Behavorial Specialist at Mendota Elementary School and Assistant Director at MSCR
• Dr. Richard Davidson, William James & Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry of UW Madison, Director of Lab for Affective Neuroscience, Founder and Chair of Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Author and Film Director
Proceeds from the Rhumba for Rainbow event will support The Rainbow Project’s continued work in Dane County providing direct early intervention and prevention services for children and their families/caregivers who have experienced trauma, including child sexual abuse, child abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic or community violence. Founded in 1980, The Rainbow Project, Inc. offers specialized treatment and related services for young children through age 10 and their families struggling with traumatic issues.
“Our waiting list was once over a year and a half and now it’s down to a couple months. That’s a major improvement,” Kato says. “As small as an agency that we are, I don’t know that people see the challenges that families face today. Our young people are exposed to so much more trauma and it’s hard to heal when you don’t have a safe place.”
Kato, who has been executive director of The Rainbow Project for 34 years, says her favorite part of coming to work every day is doing the direct services. “The board [of directors] has been very kind in allowing me to have a direct caseload and that is where my heart is. It reminds me of why I do the other part of it,” Kato says. “It certainly motivates me and gives me the energy. From the adults and kids who have been victims is where I really learn the most about how resilient they can be. Once you see the benefits of a success, it will keep you going because these are not easy cases and you have to go in these dark waters of human behavior. To bring them out of that is very rewarding.”