Making positive change: Anna Roth finds a way to help other dancers while protecting the environment – The Westerly Sun | Directory Mayhem

WESTERLY – Anna Roth’s love of dance led her into the world of philanthropy at the age of 17.

Roth, a high school senior who spends her summers in Westerly, last year founded the Leotard Project, a nonprofit organization that combines all of her passions: a concern for the environment, a desire to help others, and an eagerness to “do something to effect”. She said.

Aiming to “give dancewear a new purpose, one leotard at a time,” the Leotard Project “is breaking down economic barriers by making dancewear available to emerging dancers from underserved communities and promoting environmental sustainability through recycling of dancewear so that more children can experience the joy of dancing,” Roth writes on the organization’s website.

“I love dancing and I love helping people,” said a cheerful Roth one afternoon last week, as she sat in her parents’ renovated farmhouse, discussing the development of the project and her hopes for its future.

Roth, who has been dancing most of her life, said the idea for the project came about when she was thinking about her used dance clothes.

The only daughter of Carmiña and Ralf Roth of Westerly and Old Greenwich, Conn., Roth said she realized that dancewear and dance shoes can be expensive, quickly run out and are often thrown away.

“It’s an expensive sport,” she said.

Where did all that dance gear end up, she wondered, in landfills? And what about the dance attire of your fellow dancers?

And then, she said, she began to wonder if there might be young dancers who were being prevented from taking up dancing because they couldn’t afford all the required leotards, shoes and tights.

“Then I put two and two together,” she said. “And the problem sort of resolved itself … or the issues resolved each other.”

Roth, a student at Loomis-Chafee School in Windsor, Connecticut, soon began organizing a collection of gently worn jerseys, tights, shoes and skirts and set about finding new homes for the items.

She wrote a donation letter, started a GoFundMe page and began designing the website using a template, she said.

She also organized the placement of collection boxes at local dance schools and began networking in earnest. So far she has raised $1,875 of her goal of $5,000.

She associated with a New Haven organization called Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership Inc. (LEAP), which was founded in 1992 by “educators, students and community activists to address the city’s historic disinvestment in young people of color. “

“I went to New Haven and met up with some of the kids,” Roth said. “They were thrilled and grateful.

“We also donated some portable ballet bars and floors,” she added.

Yakeita Robinson, LEAP chief of staff, said the Leotard Project’s donations have made it possible to provide “meaningful dance experiences” to a larger group of children. The portable poles mean the program can be offered at any of the organization’s eight locations, she said, and the leotards mean interested kids can practice in real dance attire.

“You can actually change from school clothes to proper dance clothes,” she said, something many of the kids in the program couldn’t otherwise afford.

“It’s very exciting for us,” said Robinson, “and it’s really amazing to see the effort of someone so young to make a difference.”

Robinson said it was rare and “selfless” to see such a young woman so committed to making a difference in the lives of other young people.

“It might seem like a small thing,” she added, “but who knows? That could spark a passion in another young girl and Anna is part of that.”

In addition to collecting dancewear, the Leotard Project raises funds “to supplement our inventory with individual donations.”

Roth, who said she was always motivated by her love of dance and her eagerness to share her joy in dancing, laughed as she recalled her early days with the art form.

“I started dancing as soon as I could walk,” she said. “It was the only thing I wanted to do. I even remember my first teacher. She was a woman named Felicity Foote in the Greenwich Ballet Workshop and she scared me.

“But I loved the challenge,” she added. “And I wanted to improve.”

The passion for dance has continued since those early days, said Roth, who is also a member of Loomis-Chaffee’s collegiate dance team, where she also serves as president of the Pelican Pilots mentoring club.

“I love performing and I love the arts,” she said. “Dance connects both.”

Anna’s love of art seems to run in the family. Her younger brother Zach played the role of “The Boy” in the production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” at The Colonial Theater earlier this summer.

Roth’s mother, Carmiña, an interior designer, said her daughter has a long history of volunteering and has always had a strong caring side.

“She went to Guatemala with our church on a missionary trip to help build a school,” Carmiña said, “and she has always supported community service at the school.

“She’s also a great student,” she added. “She juggles a lot.”

Anna is also a yachtsman and has been active with Watch Hill Yacht Club for several years. She spent much of her summer as a member of the beach crew for the East Beach Association.

“I’ve had the best summer ever,” said Anna, who just finished her second summer with the beach coalition. “I’ve already signed up for next year.”

Stephen Iacoi from Westerly, who has led the beach crew for several years, said he wasn’t surprised when he first heard of Anna’s “efforts to support other young girls who share a love of dance”.

“She is a dedicated young lady who doesn’t shy away from a challenge,” Iacoi said in an email. “Anna has many qualities, but it’s her kindness and her soft, gentle approach that wins everyone over.

“She is a leader, a hard worker and a friend to everyone she comes in contact with. Anna is a valued employee of the East Beach Association…we are very proud of Anna and her efforts to help other girls in her community.”

Senator Dennis L. Algiere of Westerly, a vice president of the Washington Trust Company and a longtime friend of the Roth family, said he wasn’t surprised when he heard that Anna “created this generous program.”

“It’s really impressive to find a way to help other dancers in need while also helping the environment,” he said in an email.

Anna said she hopes word of her project will spread so she can continue to reach out to more and more would-be dancers.

“Ideally it will be national,” she said.

To learn more about The Leotard Project, visit

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