The Columbus DanceCentre, at 1000-B Morrison Road in Gahanna, will host a benefit for the Ascent Russian Orphan Aid Foundation on Friday, Jan. 30, from 9 to 11 p.m.
The foundation is a nonprofit charity that provides basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter to Russian orphans and homeless children. Igor Iskhakov -- a native of Russia who owns and operates the Columbus DanceCentre with his wife and dance partner, Svetlana -- found out about the Ascent Russian Orphan Aid Foundation through former dance student Kirill Bogouslavski, who initiated the foundation.
"He now lives in Hawaii," Iskhakov said. "He came back to Columbus to visit last December and he told us about his foundation. It donates 100 percent of the proceeds to orphanages to feed children."
According to the foundation's records, about 15,000 children leave Russian orphanages each year, once they are 16 to 18 years old. Of these, 5,000 are unemployed, some 6,000 are homeless and around 3,000 resort to crime. The mission of the foundation is to help these youth find stability, Bogouslavski said.
"All orphanages and shelters that receive our help are registered nonprofit organizations in the Russian Federation and have at least a five-year record of accomplishment," he said.
Bogouslavski, who was born and raised in Russia, got involved with helping orphans when he was a teenager and volunteered for a Russian youth program called Club "Brave Boy." Through the program, he helped lead a humanitarian expedition through the Caucasus mountains, which connect two republics of the former Soviet Union.
"This path was completed in three months by ... 50 Russian orphans who were led by four adult volunteers," Bogouslavski said in a testimonial on the foundation's Web site, www.russianorphan.org. "I was a part of this expedition as a wilderness survival guide. I was 14 at the time and that experience has changed my outlook on my life." "I saw these 50 troubled children ages 10 to 14 come together and build friendships, learn integrity and self-reliance, support each other and develop social and survival skills that would become the most important tools in their lives," he said. "Ever since then, in one way or another, I have been involved with Russian orphanages."
Since moving to the United States, in addition to creating the foundation, Bogouslavski has helped a friend in Columbus adopt a Russian orphan boy. Helping orphans now is his full-time mission, he said. "Originally, I planned to run this foundation as a part-time occupation. However, my plans changed when I visited Russia to re-establish my connections with orphanages," he said. "During this trip, I met so many talented and dedicated people who are trying to help Russian orphans and homeless children to survive."
Iskhakov said all of the proceeds from the Jan. 30 benefit, which will feature group dance instruction and live entertainment, will go to the foundation. "There will be dance performances and music performances," he said. "We will have professional singers and musicians." Businesses and organizations from the community will provide food and sponsor information booths, Iskhakov said.
The primary sponsor of the benefit is Columbus DanceCentre. The Iskhakovs, who founded the DanceCentre in 2002, are featured artists at the Greater Columbus Arts Councils Artist-In-Schools program. They were the U.S. representatives to the 2003 Professional World Dancesport Championships in Japan and currently rank third in the United States. They are former professional winners of the largest U.S. dancesport championship -- the Ohio Star Ball, which is known as the "dancesport Super Bowl."