"Advocates for Children is a great organization that is really helping contribute to our community and to children who are in need in our community," said Gilbert, a 17-year-old homeschooled senior who is taking dual enrollment classes at Kennesaw State University. "So that was one of the main reasons that I wanted to be a part of it because it does have a good purpose. Also because of the performing arts aspect of it, it's something that I am very familiar with.
"It's a way that I can get involved in my community and contribute in an area that I'm comfortable with and can really make a difference. So that was a great combination for me as I am Georgia's Distinguished Young Woman, wanting to have a way that I can get involved -- one, in the community; two, with children in need; and three, with the performing arts."
Auditions for "Every Child's a Star" will be held at Expedition Church, 32 Center Road in Cartersville, on Jan. 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. and Jan. 28 from 1 to 3 p.m.
For no charge, each youth needs to perform a two- to three-minute audition, which can range from dancing and singing to comedic skits and magic. Participants must provide CD audio for their routines, all of which need to be age-appropriate.
Performers will be selected for the event's six categories -- primary school, elementary school, middle school, high school, group and show choir. Along with bragging rights, each category winner and an overall victor will receive a trophy for their accomplishments.
"We've changed some things just to make it fresher," said Gilbert, who due to her age, is being assisted by an "Every Child's a Star" steering committee. "We've actually added a whole new logo. So hopefully that will catch some eyes. Also we are in the process of developing a show choir category. What we're hoping is that each school in our community will contribute at least one group of performers, five or more performers, that can be a show choir.
"Now this can be anything from a barber shop quartet to something more like 'Glee.' ... Another process that we have going on is the powder puff playoff. And what that is, it's also another chance for high schools to get involved. It's a lot like the powder puff competitions that many schools put on. This is actually entertainment for intermission. So it's going to be voted on by people in the audience and each school is going to be represented by a group of powder puff cheerleaders. So that's what we're going for, a chance for high-schoolers to get involved and for an audience to vote for that high-schooler, to vote for that group of performers."
If selected to perform in the annual variety show, participants will be able to showcase their talents while raising money for Advocates for Children. Placing an emphasis on community service, "Every Child's a Star" requires each contestant to sell at least 10 tickets at $10 each for the March 24 benefit.
This year, the talent show aims to generate $8,500 for Advocates for Children, which serves about 2,500 area youth each year through the Flowering Branch Children's Shelter and providing services that assist in the awareness, prevention and treatment of child abuse. Since about 56 percent of Advocates' annual $1.6 million budget is raised by the local community, benefits like "Every Child's a Star" are integral to the nonprofit's success.
"Our most visible program is Flowering Branch Children's Shelter," said Patty Eagar, executive director for Advocates for Children. "We only serve somewhere around 30, 35 kids a year because they stay so long, but that is our most visible program and the one that's the most easy to understand. We actually serve lots more kids through our Children's Advocacy Center program, so the children can come and tell what ... has happened to them and get help, get some family counseling so that they can get through the court system.
"Our Court Appointed Special Advocates program -- our CASA program -- serves, I think we have somewhere over 200 kids right now who have active volunteer CASAs on their cases, helping decide where those children are going to get to go and live forever. We have several hundred kids in Rainbows, learning to deal with the grief that they are experiencing due to death, divorce, incarceration, abandonment. We have programs from the day that a baby is born right up through children who are age 18. And then we help the families as well to deal with the trauma that the children have gone through. So we're trying to prevent child abuse in the first place and help to comfort, console and assist those who are already the victims of child abuse."
For more information about Advocates or auditioning for "Every Child's a Star," call 770-387-1143 or visit www.advochild.org. Further details about participating in the powder puff playoff can be obtained by contacting Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org. The talent show will be held March 24 at 7 p.m. at the Woodland High School Performing Arts Center in Cartersville.