Giving Back Through Design and Dance

Giving Back Through Design and Dance

The energy inside the historic Lyric Theatre was electric as fans and supporters poured in to watch local celebrities take the stage to compete in 2019’s Dancing with the Stars of the Magic City. Friends and family snapped pre-show photos together and made glitzy posters to cheer on their favorite star. As a member of the First Light Young Partners, the junior board of First Light shelter who organizes this annual event, I couldn’t help but think back to the show’s humbler beginnings.

When Dancing with the Stars of the Magic City began in 2016, fans cheered from tables and  bleachers set up at the now-defunct Old Car Heaven as each group of dance partners performed a 90-second routine in the dance style of their choice. The Young Partners raced to count cash donations to find out which team would win the first-ever Torch People’s Choice Award. We were learning everything as we did it, and we had a blast bringing people together to support First Light.

First Light serves homeless women and children in Birmingham, and it is the only shelter in our community that is accessible to guests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. First Light is also unusual in that they do not turn away people who are struggling with mental illness, battling addiction, or dealing with chronic neglected health issues. Even before the pandemic, there had been a troubling increase in homelessness. Last year, First Light served 213 adults and 88 children in supportive housing programs. In 2003, they served 13 children.

First Light relies on the generosity of volunteers and donors, and Dancing with the Stars was created as a way to raise financial support for the shelter’s supportive housing programs and various services for the women and children it serves every day. In the event’s first year, DWTS of the Magic City raised $36,970 for First Light, and we knew this special event would only continue to grow from there.

Now, DWTS of the Magic City has graduated to the Lyric Theatre, a venue that truly reflects the magnitude of the event. In 2019, the show raised $78,003 for First Light. Because the event has matured so much over the past five years, I knew 2020 was the perfect time to give it a makeover. Working with the talented and service-minded team at Telegraph, I saw an opportunity for us to help by donating some of our time and expertise.

Art Director Kyle DeMarco got to work on a new DWTS of the Magic City logo with art deco and old Hollywood influences that also tied in some of the shapes from the shelter’s logo. Designer Kaitlin Sparkman helped bring the new look to life in revamped sponsorship materials, new programs and fresh posters. The result is an elegant, sophisticated new look that illustrates the significance of the event. Thanks in part to our updated materials and new look, DWTS of the Magic City has already raised more money in sponsorships than we had last year before the event.

But Telegraph’s involvement doesn’t stop with the branding. Telegraph President Brian “BJ” Ellis is one of the stars who will be competing this year. BJ’s dance partner, Miah Thompson, has been teaching BJ to dance a quickstep to Rihanna’s “Pon de Replay.” The practices have been hard work for BJ, but he has enjoyed the ride so far and is ready to take the stage at the Lyric on October 8. “Dancing with the stars has been a great experience. I didn’t know what to think as I haven’t done anything like this before, but it has been fantastic to be able to give back to First Light in this way. And it’s certainly helpful that Miah has so much patience!”

Although this year’s DWTS of the Magic City will look slightly different because of the pandemic, anyone can still attend the event virtually. Tickets are $25 and give you access to watch the live streamed event from the comfort and safety of your own home. All proceeds benefit the women and children who rely on First Light shelter.

The Telegraph team is thankful for the opportunity to use our talents to help the homeless women and children of Birmingham, and we can’t wait to root for BJ as he struts his stuff on the Lyric stage. To get your live stream tickets and help us cheer on BJ and the other stars and dancers, head to