Students to Host Benefit Concert for Petit Family Foundation

Arts From the Heart performing Friday at Irving Robbins in first benefit concert.

·                                 By Kaitlin McCallum

·                                 May 16, 2011


On Friday residents will have a chance to see some of the area’s finest young dancers and musicians doing what they love – performing to bring joy to the community. But this Friday’s performance will not just entertain but also will serve as the group’s first fundraiser to benefit thePetit Family Foundation.

The group is Arts From the Heart, made up of middle school and high school students dancing and performing music as community service.

“I love performing and I love giving back to the community so this seemed like a good way to combine the two,” said Danielle Hoffman, a seventh-grader at Irving A. Robbins, who organized the Connecticut chapter of Arts From the Heart.

The idea began in New Jersey, with Danielle’s cousin, Madison Steele, a piano player who created the group for her Bat Mitzvah service project in 2006. She enlisted her Girl Scout troop to perform concerts at area nursing homes. The initiative was both successful and rewarding and so even before Danielle’s Bat Mitzvah, she adopted the idea in Connecticut.

Danielle recruited fellow students at Dance Inc. in Plainville and musical theater friends. The Connecticut chapter is made up of eight core Arts From the Heart members including Justin Brown, Jessie Davidson, Reilly Lincavicks, Stephanie Sponzo, Joy DelValle, Grace Gentile and Justin Farrell.

The group performs at assisted living facilities throughout the year including The Gables in Farmington, McLean House in Simsbury and Hebrew Home in West Hartford.

“We utilize our talents in musical theater to help the community and hopefully brighten the day of the people at the senior center and community centers,” Danielle said. “It’s really amazing - it’s just so evident how much they enjoy our performances. They all come up to us at the end and hug us.”

The group wanted to go farther by organizing a charity concert for the Petit Family Foundation, which honors the memory of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley Elizabeth Petit and Michaela Rose Petit, who were killed in the Cheshire home invasion. The group chose the foundation because some members had close ties to the Petit family and they believe in the foundation’s work.

“It’s a really important foundation and we really wanted to do something to contribute. A lot of people knew them and wanted to support the foundation,” Danielle said.

Joining the regular Arts From the Heart members will be Danielle’s cousin Madison, Lucy Tomasso and Caroline Zocco.

The group will perform songs and dances in duets, large ensembles and as solos. In addition, items donated by local stores and restaurants will be raffled off or sold at silent auction during the evening. A bake sale will be held, too, with proceeds from the entire evening going to the Petit Family Foundation.

The event is Friday, May 20 at Irving A. Robbins Middle School. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the bake sale and raffle and the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children under 14, and are available by calling 860-677-2900 or by contacting