Hannah Mergi is giving love and care to Heart & Soul.
The 13-year-old Youngstown dancer has started a program to provide students attending Niagara Falls' Heart, Love & Soul Food Pantry with a fun, stress-reducing activity through her Turning Pointe Foundation.
"I started this project last summer after Sister Nora Sweeney asked me to teach a dance class during the summer camp held at Heart & Soul Food Pantry," Hannah said. "I asked my dance teachers if they would help me. I have been dancing since I was 5, but had never taught a class. The kids that attended had a lot of fun."
"Dancing makes me happy," Hannah explained. "Life can be stressful for kids. Doesn't it make sense that teaching stressed-out kids to dance could help make them happy? This is my whole goal. The room that day last summer was full of laughter and smiles. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. There are kids attending Heart & Soul who may never get a chance to take a dance class. I just want to share what makes me happy."
Hannah's mother, Lisa Fincher Mergi, said, "The purpose of the foundation is to try to bring dance classes to underprivileged children.
"Hannah came up with this on her own. She is a pretty philanthropic child. She donated her hair at the age of 6 - all her own idea - for Locks of Love, and did so again at the age of 9 to Pantene. She shaved her head (the only girl to do so) at Lew-Port for the 'Kiss Your Hair Goodbye' campaign raising $500."
One of Hannah's teaching sessions recently ended. One student, Adam Daoust, was selected to win a scholarship to Niagara Arts and Recreation Camp, which is a five-week summer arts program run by Marissa Granto Chapman. Hannah also has received support from Adell Hoover Manarino and Adell's School of Dance.
Hannah credits her dance instructors with inspiring her to share her talents with others.
"My teachers, Adell Manarino, Ali Casale, Katie Principe and Marissa Granto Chapman from Adell's School of Dance immediately said they would help me," Hannah said. "This project would be nowhere without them. I would be nowhere without them."