A stage, chrome poles and dancers. It may not be the most usual formula for a fundraising event but for Pole for a Purpose, it is tried and tested. In its fifth year, the local women responsible for organizing the annual event have raised a record-breaking $5,500 to empower women and help local charities and their community — all while wearing 10-inch heels.
"There's still a misconception of what a pole dancing studio does. It's a dance class where we use a pole, really," says Sarah Murray, owner of Impulse Pole Dance and main organizer of the event. "This is a chance for us to share our passion for the greater good and it lets people know we're just normal, hard-working women and business owners who care about their community."
The event's fifth edition took place on August 15 at the Straz Center in Tampa with over 300 guests and 10 different pole dancing studios from across the state.
The showcase included over 65 dancers — from amateurs to instructors and even award-winning pole dancing celebrity Jamilla Deville — performing solos, duets and as groups. Each performer had a creative concept for their number, some emotional, others sexy or dramatic, complete with costumes, props, gravity-defying tricks and confidence as the overarching theme.
"Feeling sexy and confident is not something only strippers get to do. It's healthy and normal to feel those things and we want women to know that," says Murray who chose CASA, a St. Petersburg organization assisting victims of domestic violence as this year's beneficiary for the fundraiser for their work in helping abused women regain their confidence and life.
The event raised a total of $5,500, which was matched by the Sonia Raymund Foundation that started the program to double donations to CASA of up to $1 million this July. The $11,000 will be applied to the organization's debt from purchasing its new shelter in Pinellas County.
"We're tremendously thankful for them asking to get involved and making that contribution," says Shandra Riffey, CASA's acting executive director. "We went from a 34 bed shelter to a 100 bed shelter and we're completely full. This new facility will help us better meet the needs of St. Petersburg."