Emily List Fund benefits arts programs, including Whole Children of Hadley

  • Emily List Photo courtesy Karen List

For the Bulletin
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

In its seventh year, the Emily List Fund for Performing Arts Therapy has awarded five grants to theater and dance companies to help them continue to give back to their communities. When Emily List lost her life to cancer at 26 in 2011, her family and friends knew they wanted to start a fund for performing arts in her memory.

From a young age, Emily, who graduated from Amherst Regional High School, had a passion for theater and writing, a love that led her to acting, dancing and reviewing shows. The fund created in her honor serves to help theaters and dance companies continue programs that make the arts accessible for the ill, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged. 

Two of the 2018 recipients are local, including Whole Children of Hadley and the SciTech Band of Springfield. Director Gary Bernice of the Springfield band plans to use the grant to buy instruments for students who can’t afford them. With a program that has grown exponentially from 20 to over 500 students since 2007, a number of those students are at a disadvantage financially, and Emily’s fund will help ensure they can all be a part of the band.

At Whole Children, the Milestones theater program will use the grant to pay for costumes, props and other aspects of their annual original musical, just as they did last year. The day program works with children with intellectual disabilities on skill building, social interaction and physical exercise.

“It’s a great fit for us,” said Whole Children’s director of development and communications, Valle Dwight. “Emily’s story really resonated with us, and we were happy to maintain this connection.”

Because the program is local, Emily’s parents were able to see her legacy manifested last year when they performed their annual show at Smith College. “It was a mash-up of ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and it was so heartwarming,” said Emily’s mother, Karen List, a professor in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department.

Good Medicine Productions also received a 2018 grant to contribute to their interactive comedic and improvisational performances at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Another recipient is United Cerebral Palsy of MetroBoston, a nonprofit organization in Watertown, Massachusetts that will partner with the Mosesian Center for the Arts to bring musical theater to children with physical and intellectual disabilities.

In New York, Born Dancing will also benefit from the grants. Students with disabilities have the opportunity to take classes in the art of dance alongside professional dancers, culminating in a production displaying the skills they’ve learned.

This is the third year they have received the grant, and in 2016, founder Melissa Van Wijk and her company filmed a tribute  in Emily’s honor, dancing to one of her favorite songs by the Rolling Stones, “Start Me Up.”

As Karen List recalled, “Emily was fond of saying, ‘There’s no problem so big that dancing in the kitchen won’t help.’ And she never walked anywhere: she danced.”

For information about the Emily List Fund, please go online to emilylistfund.com.