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Davis Gaines’ Music of the Night benefits SOSMentor

February 5, 2011

The SOSMentor program fights childhood obesity in Los Angeles and Broadway star, Davis Gaines, performs a benefit concert for the organization this month at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. 

Gaines, who performed the title role in Phantom of the Opera more than 2,000 times, joined the organization’s board after reading about it through his involvement in the downtown Los Angeles Rotary Club. 

He is one of many volunteers who mentors high school students by participating in periodic 5-week Shape Up programs. “I help to teach high school students about the value of proper nutrition and exercise. One hour after school, we instruct them on food pyramids and making proper and healthy food choices.” 

Once the students ‘graduate’ from the program, “they take what we’ve given them to elementary and middle schools so, in turn, the high school kids become mentors. They pass along the knowledge we’ve taught them. The younger ones love it because they look up to the high school kids who really step up and become the teachers.” 

Most importantly, Gaines says, students take what they learn home to their families. “I got to see how little they knew about healthy food choices and how to read labels and decide why one type of food is better than another. This program really changes the way they think about the way they eat, even down to snacks. It’s a success when parents take that information and start shopping and cooking differently.” 

He’s gratified when he sees a transformation in kids. “It’s like a light bulb going off that food doesn’t have to come in a package. A lot of the kids don’t have the means to find healthy food and many of their neighborhoods don’t have proper grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables. But they want to learn.”

SOSMentor serves schools primarily in Los Angeles’ inner city. “We also have a couple in North Hollywood along with Hollywood High School. But the schools we target definitely are based on socio-economics.” 

Breaking kids – and their parents – of poor food choices requires finesse. “We make it fun. We show them, for example, how many sugar cubes would fill up a can of soda. They’re amazed. We take a piece of white rice and shave off the outer edge to see what the actual inner grain looks like and why brown rice is a better choice.” 

After joining the program as a mentor, the organizations founders invited Gaines in 2008 to join the Board of Directors. There’s always need for a nonprofit to raise money. “They asked if I would do a benefit performance to raise money for the organization. So I signed on as the co-chairman of the event committee and all of a sudden, I became the entertainment!” 

To that end, Gaines will sing some of his favorite Sammy Cahn and Broadway tunes at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Saturday, February 19. “We just want it to be a fun evening. We’ll show a 5-minute film about the organization and sell raffle tickets. It’s a two-act show. I’ll sing with a 5-piece combo and a surprise guest and I may sing a duet or two.” 

While Gaines performed Phantom of the Opera and, more recently, Parade and 1776, he says it’s been a long time since he’s done this kind of benefit in Los Angeles. Concert and VIP reception tickets are available here

“The bottom line,” says Gaines, “is that we don’t have a dollar goal in mind. We just want to raise as much money as we can for a program that has meant so much to more than 2,000 kids. The money goes directly into the school programs and we want to expand into more schools. The rates of childhood obesity,” he notes, “are out of control.”

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