Alexandra de Roos, Miss Gainesville Outstanding Teen, has started a nonprofit organization that collects gently used dance gear to help make the discipline less of a financial hardship on families.
Since Alexandra de Roos put on her first pair of dance shoes as a 2-year-old, she grew up wanting to make sure everyone could take part in the discipline.
"I realized there are so many young kids out there who love dance but don’t get to participate because dancewear is so expensive," the 17-year-old said. "It’s difficult, because it’s such an amazing art form that benefits so many."
The Polk County native, crowned this year’s Miss Gainesville’s Outstanding Teen, noticed some of her peers showed up to dance classes with gaping holes in their shoes, or dressed in the same, frayed dance attire for weeks in a row.
Sometimes, her friends would worry about not coming back for next year’s season because of the expense.
De Roos told her mom, Shelli de Roos, she wanted to change that.
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This spring, de Roos’ brainchild organization Peace Love and Leotards took a step in making dance more accessible to those families who can’t afford the necessary dance gear.
Peace Love Leotards, which donates new or gently-used dancewear, went from an informal idea she thought up as an 8-year-old to an official nonprofit in April.
Ballet, and dance in general, de Roos said, is not a cheap hobby.
A new set of shoes, tights and a leotard can cost $75 a pop or more, she explained. Her mother said in the past, de Roos would often donate her prize money from competitions to go toward a friend’s dance tuition.
The grassroots effort, of which de Roos is the board and president, has donated roughly $2,000 worth of products to dancers of all ages.
The School of American Ballet student said she had time to focus on establishing the nonprofit after the school in New York City sent students home because of COVID-19.
"Being in quarantine, it’s kind of a little depressing not leaving the house," she said. "But Peace Love Leotards was a way to focus and think of a lot of positive things."
She also hoped that her designation as this year’s Miss Gainesville Outstanding Teen, which draws candidates from around the state, could boost her effort.
"Starting here at the local level is one of the great things about the competition," said Rachel Dickhaus, executive director for the Miss Gainesville Scholarship Competition. "With everything that’s going on right now, it’s awesome to see (Alex) can still make an impact."
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She’s shipped donated shoes, skirts and leotards all over the state, and to studios in Georgia and Tennessee.
Six to seven cardboard boxes filled with shoes and spandex outfits, sent from dance studios, crowd her dining room.
"Our dining room has become more the "Sort and Box (Leotard) Room,’’ Shelli de Roos said while laughing. "It’s kinda fun. You do what you have to do. Maybe one day we’ll have to get a storage unit."
To donate dancewear, visit peaceloveleotards.com. Men’s and women’s wear is accepted.