photo by: Jeffery Burkhead

Members of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence team reprsenting Deerfield Elementary pose with their trophy after finishing in first place at the 2021 Lights On Talent Show. Ms. Amanda Love, the 2021 Miss Gay Kansas United States and host of the show, stands in the background.

Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence members from Deerfield Elementary School waltzed away with the first-place trophy Friday at the club’s annual talent show.

The Lights On Talent Show, which used the theme “Strong Across Lawrence,” featured songs about strength, overcoming adversity and getting back up again, focusing on the resiliency the community showed during the pandemic. The show returned this year after taking a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The talent show was hosted by Amanda Love, the 2021 Miss Gay Kansas United States, who also performed during the event. Dance teams from each of the club’s sites showcased their moves to the music of One Direction, Destiny’s Child, Janelle Monáe, Elton John and others.

Deerfield ended up winning the competition, with teams from Langston Hughes and Woodlawn elementary schools coming in second and third, respectively, the club said in a news release. The club said Deerfield’s victory was its first in the 22-year-old competition.

Kathryn Watson-Jackson, a volunteer for the club who led the Deerfield team, said she was proud of the members of her squad. She also said the members enjoyed seeing the performances of the other teams.

“My favorite part of Lights On is actually coming to dress rehearsal and seeing what all of the other sites put together,” Jackson said. “The other teams were all super creative, colorful, with all the props and fun stunts. I was so excited to watch all of them. But, after we heard third and second place, I was thinking the same thing the kids were, hoping, ‘Deerfield! Deerfield! Deerfield!’ and it was Deerfield!”

The event also aimed to help the club return to a sense of normalcy, which has been difficult during the pandemic. The club previously said students attending the club’s locations are still required to wear masks as a safety precaution. Club CEO Monica Dittmer also noted that most of the club’s members have not been eligible for COVID vaccines as they are younger than 12 years old.

During the show, Dittmer said she loved the event and she was happy to see the members enthusiastically participating and bonding with their mentors.

“You can see how these kids and teens learned their dances from their club staff, and they can’t wait to show it off on stage,” Dittmer said. “Watch their faces when the performance ends and they hear the crowd cheer for them — they are absolutely beaming. It’s just the best. I’m so proud of every single one of them.”

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