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Dust off those poodle skirts, Saturday Night Fever pants, and psychedelic tie-dye tees and join the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation (AOK) for “Dance Through the Decades,” the nonprofit’s 6th Annual Step into the Spotlight Soiree and Talent Competition next month. 

 AOK, which helps pay for lessons in vocal instruction, dance, acting, and instrumental music for New Jersey residents ages 7-22 who are in financial need, will hold its annual fundraiser on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. the Lobster Shanty Sunset Ballroom in Point Pleasant.  Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available now. 

The evening features active audience participation, a showcase of talent, and celebrity judges from the arts, entertainment and business community. Audience members are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite musician or in attire from their favorite musical decade. 

Contestants will vie for the Step into the Spotlight Award. The statewide nonprofit ArtPride New Jersey will receive the Arts Advocacy Award for its work advancing, promoting, and advocating for the value of the arts.  

“Today’s arts students are tomorrow’s arts advocates,” said Adam Perle, president and CEO of ArtPride. “Arts education has the power to transform young lives. We are grateful for this award and honored to advocate for New Jersey’s incredible arts community of students, educators and artists.”  

 The event is dedicated to the life and memory of Carolyn Hester, one of the original contestants in the inaugural Step into the Spotlight Soiree. All proceeds support the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation’s mission to give children the opportunity to find their voice, increase self-esteem, and provide positive reinforcement through the performing arts.  

 The lineup includes performances from a host of contestants, including nostalgic and dynamic blues and reggae duo Roots in Blue Stone; jazz and musical theatre soprano Susan Peltz; musician/songwriter Thomas Pipola;  professional ballroom dancing duo Evgenii Rozenfeld & Olha Novikova; and Ms. New Jersey Senior America 2023 Ferlie Almonte, star of her one-woman inspirational EDUtainment show “Make Your Mess Your Message.” Additional contestants will continue to be announced as the event nears.  

 Carol Stillwell, owner and president of Stillwell-Hansen, Inc., will join actor, producer, and writer Kim Berrios Lin on the judges’ panel. Other Step into the Spotlight Award judges include Chris Maltese, vice president of Label & Artist Relations at international music label and distributor Vydia; Anna Mastroianni, stunt woman, actress and entrepreneur; Nick Ditri, one-half of the internationally renowned, platinum-selling duo Disco Fries; Debra Dutcher, producer of “Back to the Future” on Broadway; and Lou Morreale, trained chef, and general manager of the JBJ Soul Kitchen.  

The Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation (AOK) has connected hundreds of students to the performing arts by funding artistic instruction and resources for students with financial need. The Foundation also provides opportunities for young artists to give back to their communities through the AOK performance group, which performs at organizations throughout Ocean and Monmouth counties. They regularly perform at JBJ Soul Kitchen, run by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, a nonprofit community restaurant that serves paying and in-need customers.  

Event tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, visit the Foundation’s website, https://applaudourkids.org/. For additional sponsorship opportunities, further information, or media inquiries, please contact Jodi Grinwald at jodi@applaudourkids.org