A decade and a half ago performing arts tutor Cathy Thompson-Evans had a vision - to set up a theatre for youngsters and raise money for children’s charities at the same time. So Kidz 4 Kidz was born.
Cathy said: “As a teenager, I knew a sense of community pride which I attributed to having been a part of a variety of youth clubs.
“I was a performing arts teacher and mother to two young children, so a performing group for kids was my obvious choice.
“A small group of us began the community club, with the focus being on children having fun, building confidence and making friends. It was like a youth club, where we also happened to put on shows.
“I wanted something for the community, so any profit raised from shows would go to local children’s charities or local children in need. We collectively felt this would give the kids involved a sense of purpose and invite them to realise how fortunate they are by being introduced to some of the local children’s charities in their neighbourhood.
“We had 17 children turn up to the first rehearsal and there were a cast of 43 by the time we performed the first show at the local social club.
“Now, as we reach a 15 year milestone and perform our 47th show, we have a cast of 79.
“We appreciate every committee member who has volunteered their time for any duration and all 515 cast and crew involved in the Kidz 4 Kidz shows over the years.
“We have raised more than £12,000 for local children’s charities and local children in need, from show profits over the past 15 years.”
Kidz 4 Kidz has won the Evening Post’s Heart of the Community Award and have been finalists in Rock FM and Cash for Kids Time to Shine Awards.
Cathy added: “It’s hard work, but it’s also very rewarding. We’ve met some amazing people and made some lifetime friends. Our children have learned a sense of community, respect for others and how fortunate they are – that’s the real payment.”
Sam Anderson was one of the first children to join, aged nine. He said: “Kidz 4 Kidz brought the best out of me confidence-wise and introduced me to a whole new social circle.”
Scott Graham, 43, attends with his 10-year-old daughter, Morgan. He said: “It is a truly great community group. It has given us a lot of confidence and it is truly awesome that we get to do it together as father and daughter.”
Naomi Dixon said: “I have been lucky to see my daughter Paige’s confidence grow. She has learnt how important it is to care for and support others.”
Marcus Wright has grown up with the group, as he joined aged 17 and became a choreographer and producer.
The 28-year-old said: “We are thrilled to have reached our 15th anniversary. We never thought something like this would take off the way it did.
“The idea is that the youngsters are fund-raising for other children who need help in the local community. For the last two years we have raised money for Derian House.
“The kids love performing and it is educating them about things that are going on in their own community. It makes them want to do something and get involved.”
To celebrate the group’s 15th anniversary Kidz 4 Kidz is hosting a huge variety show - Step Back in Time - at Charter Theatre, Preston, on Saturday July 9, from 7.30pm.
Tickets are £7, plus a £2 booking fee, with all proceeds going towards Derian House.
Marcus added: “We felt a show going through the ages was perfect for our anniversary. We will perform hits from 2010, all the way back to the swinging 60s. We will have videos from cast members, past and present, talking about their time at Kidz 4 Kidz.
“I am delighted to be involved in the anniversary celebrations.”
Tickets can be purchased through the Box Office of the Charter Theatre or by visiting www.prestonguildhall.com/events/view/399