Realizing that many students are unable to access the technology or arts programs they need – even in the country’s largest school system – AhHa!Broadway is working to bring computers, wifi, and live theatrical productions to New York City students through its “1,000 Kids” initiative.
With only $3,300 raised of the $60,000 goal as of Jan. 3 for this year’s initiative, a post on the “Humans of New York” social media pages went viral, reaching millions internationally. It ultimately persuaded more than 3,000 donors to pledge close to $70,000.
The goal of AhHa!Broadway’s “1,000 Kids” is to help close the digital divide, believing that every day a child goes without a working computer or proper internet access, due to infrastructure or economic realities, is a day of education lost forever.
On Sunday, May 22, the non-profit organization presented 25 students in Queens with HP Chromebooks, in addition to a musical performance of “The Kindness Project,” an original play that encourages kindness and respect for others. The event was made possible, in part, thanks to support from New York State Senator Leroy Comrie of the 14th Senatorial District of Queens, who also delivered remarks.
“Every New Yorker deserves the opportunity to learn, to perform, and to believe in themselves. AhHa!Broadway exists to make this possible,” said Heather Edwards, co-founder and CEO of AhHa!Broadway. “Our ‘1,000 Kids’ initiative was created to ensure that performing arts education is always accessible. From the time children develop motor skills, they rely on the arts to learn how to communicate, think critically, empathize, and understand the human condition.”
It was Edwards’ husband, Marc Raco, who posted on the “Humans of New York” account about his wife’s selfless project that needed support. He wrote, “Her goal is to bring performing arts education to underserved individuals. They’ve done some great programs, but she’s having a tough time with it … It’s been hard to watch her cry through the disappointments. This is the most important thing I’ve ever seen be important to her, and I really want her to succeed. Because I love her. But also because I never want her to lose faith in the goodness of the world.”
The thousands of comments on the post were filled with encouragement, love, and applause.
Learn more at https://ahhabroadway.org/1000kids/. AhHa!Broadway collaborates with 21 Ethos, a tech education and career development company, on the “1,000 Kids” project.
Learn, perform, and believe: these three words capture the spirit and purpose of non-profit AhHa!Broadway’s mission to provide access for underserved children, senior citizens, and military veterans to arts education programming and services, with a focus on performing arts such as theatre, music, dance, comedy, and makeup-both in person and online. With more than 1,000 people served, continue to inspire creativity, sparking imagination & educating to motivate self-belief, showcase diverse cultures, and create performing opportunities — regardless of economic or ethnic background. In addition to initiatives to provide technology to those who don’t have it, and spreading the message of kindness through musical theatre and books, AhHa!Broadway is here to make sure anyone can learn, discover, and explore what they’re capable of, grow, heal, and believe in themselves in new ways.
Heather Edwards is a classically trained pianist and graduate of Berklee College of Music. She has worked professionally as a pianist since age 15 and has performed with bands, toured internationally with Broadway productions, and served as musical director for numerous New York City area theater productions. Heather has also played a wide range of characters in films and television shows with A-listers, such as Kevin Bacon, Meryl Streep, and Matt Damon. She studied and performed as a dancer, performed as a recurring character for eight years on a popular comedy podcast, and teaches private piano and vocal lessons to kids (she even coached Marvel action icon Sebastian Stan before he was a star). As an educator, she has taught more than 10,000 children over the last 20 years. Heather co-founded and serves as CEO of the non-profit AhHa!Broadway. In response to seeing too many children unable to access the services AhHa!Broadway provides, due to a lack of sufficient technology such as computers, Heather also created and launched in 2020 the “1,000 Kids” initiative to solve that issue for as many children as possible. She is also an active volunteer and supporter of many causes, regularly spreading the message: “Be kind to one another.” This inspired Heather’s “The Kindness Project,” which shares the importance of kindness throughout the New York City area, through musical theater and literacy.
Photo credit: Emmersen Tormey