Rhumba 4 Rainbow, one of Madison’s most premiere nights of salsa dancing, music and networking, is coming back for its 15th year this Friday, Sept. 13, at the Varsity Hall of Union South on the UW-Madison campus. Rhumba 4 Rainbow is an annual benefit to raise money for the Rainbow Project, a child and family counseling and research clinic.
Rhumba 4 Rainbow started after Rainbow Project Executive Director Sharyl Kato wanted to combine her love of salsa with the work she was doing. The Rainbow Project, on E. Washington Ave., has been serving the Madison community since its founding in 1980. The project helps children, caregivers and families who experience trauma, helping them build foundations for a stable life.
“Last month, we celebrated 39 years of the Rainbow Project serving the community,” said Kato, who has been with the project since the beginning. “Rainbow for Rhumba is a fundraiser for the Rainbow Project who work with children to help them overcome trauma, and an opportunity to celebrate the success of young children and families.”
Though it is a fundraiser, it is also a networking opportunity and a chance for the Rainbow Project to hand out awards.
“We want to also celebrate thanking our supporters and we give out awards for exceptional people going the extra mile,” she said. Because the event grows more each year, there is a large number of volunteers available to help. “We have a great staff who are really hard-working and over 50 volunteers helping us.”
The event itself will be held from 7 pm to midnight at the Union South’s Varsity Hall. The night will include a “Dancing With the Stars”-style celebrity dance competition, featuring Madison celebrities like Rebecca Ribley, WKOW News; Leah Linscheid, News 3 Now; Cawi Buie, Madison Fire Department.
Along with the competition, there will be a silent auction available, and former Green Bay Packer and Super Bowl champion Gilbert Brown will be auctioning off Green Bay Packers merchandise. Brown will be a special guest, along with Takema Balentine, Miss Black USA.
There will be an amateur salsa content with cash prizes available for the first, second and third place winners. Rhumba 4 Rainbow will also be welcoming back multiple professional Latin groups for a floor show, including 9-time World Salsa-Bachata-Hustle Champions Uriel Garcia and Vera Rowe, and Milwaukee’s youngest Latin Dance Team, Sasabrositas.
“I’m very excited to share more about trauma but also celebrate success,” Kato said. One of the things we’ve learned is that trauma victims need to relearn appreciating joy. When our families see the support, it’s in their world view that people do care about them, and hopefully, they think the world is safer than they thought it was.”
The Rainbow Project started after the early childhood community realized that about 15% of preschoolers were having problems in school and there was no way to deal with those problems. Kato and several others recognized that there needed to be more early intervention and prevention, and the Rainbow Project provided a way to work with families and break the cycle of trauma.
“Unfortunately there are children in pre-school who are expelled and suspended at a higher rate than adolescence, often due to trauma. We want folks to understand that they aren’t just born bad,” Kato said.
So far, the Rainbow Project has helped over 14,000 children, families and caregivers recover from different types of trauma, and offer training locally, nationally and internationally. They work with children from infancy to 10-to-11-year-olds because they are most at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“We’re really proud of the fact that 30 years ago we were doing things that were best practice that we weren’t being recognized for,” Kato said. “We were ahead of our time.”
The Rainbow Project has made such an impact on the Madison Community that since its founding, the project has never not had a waiting list. Because of this, Rhumba 4 Rainbow helps provide services to those families on the waiting list.
“I hope everyone comes and enjoys themselves because I know many of us in the field understand how challenging this is,” Kato said, “and having support is important for us in getting through the hard times.”