November 22, 2013
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It was more than 20 years ago when Linda Haas first saw Heather Hopkins, the baby sister of one of the girls in her dance class. Heather was just three months old, but was suffering from a severe facial deformity where blood vessels in her face had swelled up under her skin and continued to grow.
“It was heart wrenching for me to see this beautiful little girl suffer,” said Haas, who opened The Academy of Dance and Gymnastics in Newport News 33 years ago.
The Hopkins family turned to Dr. Bill Magee, CEO and co-founder of the Hampton Roads-based children’s medical charity, Operation Smile, who operated on Heather’s hemangioma and has continued to work with her since.
“Watching the transformation that resulted from the gift of a smile was life-changing,” said Haas, who witnessed Heather’s growth while also learning more about Operation Smile.
Since then, Hass has devoted her annual Christmas show to entirely benefit Operation Smile.
“Ms. Linda was clearly concerned about me,” said Heather, now a 21-year-old college student. “Ms. Linda has such a passion for Operation Smile, and I love that she continues to bring awareness of such a great organization to our community.”
Celebrating its 19th year, The Christmas Extravaganza has raised nearly $172,000 for Operation Smile, bringing life-changing surgeries to 714 people around the world.
“I can’t think of a better cause,” Haas said. “That’s what keeps me going year after year. I’ve seen how Operation Smile changes lives here and around the world. I just makes me want to reach out and do more.”
This year’s Christmas Extravaganza is Sunday, December 15 with two showings at 3:00 pm and & 7:00 pm at Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling 757-873-0454. More information is available online at: fergusoncenter.org. All proceeds from the event go to Operation Smile, including ticket sales, concessions and other purchases.
The Christmas Extravaganza promises to exceed your expectations with thrilling performances to captivate the youngest children and even spark the Christmas spirit in a family Grinch. The dancing and singing is wonderful. The costumes are superb. This year’s show features nearly 300 award-winning performers from the Academy of Dance including the National Dance Champion “Showbiz Kids” plus over 50 Elves in costume entering in sleighs, angels, toy soldiers, beautiful ballerinas, fantastic tap dancers, exciting Christmas hip-hop dancers, Christmas vocalists, plus more.
Dancers who grew up under Hass’s direction continue to come back to Newport News year after year for the special performances of Christmas Extravaganza.
Tiffany Hass, Linda’s daughter, who was a former Academy dancer and went on to become a Miss America contestant and is presently in the Broadway cast of Wicked, said performers are often looked up to as role models in the community.
“I believe we have the additional responsibility to lead by example and make an effort to help those in need,” she said. “Operation Smile is a wonderful way to fulfill that responsibility. I was fortunate enough to go on an Operation Smile medical mission to Venezuela and participate in their wonderful work. I saw firsthand how Operation Smile changes lives forever.”
About Operation Smile (www.operationsmile.org)
Operation Smile, headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is an international children’s medical charity with a presence in more than 60 countries, whose network of 5,400 medical volunteers from 80 countries is dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children. Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 3.8 million healthcare evaluations and conducted over 200,000 free surgical procedures for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities, as well as patients suffering from burns. To build long-term self-sufficiency in developing countries, Operation Smile trains doctors and local medical professionals in its partner countries so they are empowered to treat their own local communities, donates medical equipment and supplies, and provides year-round medical treatment through Comprehensive Care and Training and Treatment Centers.
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