HSOC 2008: The Ultimate Step Show

On April 12, 2008 the Greater Hartford, CT community for the 3rd consecutive year embraced the Hartford Step Off Classic. For the 2nd year in a row, more than 2800 patrons sold out the Bushnell Performing Arts Center to witness the annual: Step into Wellness – Hartford Step-Off Classic and Health Expo. The day combined rhythms and syncopated movement with a multitude of health and wellness providers, insurers, educators and community outreach services. College sorority and fraternity teams among the Divine Nine came from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts to compete for prize money and 1st place trophies. The audience was also treated to exhibition performances by middle school, high school and collegiate step teams from Connecticut. Local dignitaries including Mayor Eddie Perez were wowed by the enormity of the event as well as the diversity of the audience. This year we again had more than 60% of the audience in the under age 18 age category.

Beta Sigma Lambda Chapter and its BSL Educational Foundation, Inc. of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. sponsored with sponsor The CT Health Foundation which has been the lead sponsor since it’s inception in 2006. That first event drew 1,500 patrons to the University of Hartford Sport Complex. This year, along with returning corporate sponsors CIGNA, the Aetna Foundation and Hobson Associates, the sponsorship list grew to include The Michael Janet Suisman CAF, the Community Health Network of CT, My People Clinical Services, the U.S. Army, The Hartford, BET Foundation, Eastern Orthopedic Sports, ProHealth Physicians and the local CBS Broadcasting Station Hot 93.7 FM Radio.

Sponsorships defrayed the cost of the event while ticket sales generated more than $34,000 net income to build an endowment for the BSL Educational Foundation Inc. The Foundation annually provides scholarships to graduating seniors, sponsors high school students for the Fraternity’s Eastern Region Leadership Development Institute, awards scholarships to participants of the Bro. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest, and targets middle and high school students with its Project Alpha event. The revenue will also help the Foundation to continue the Alpha Academy, a continuum program for educational enrichment and personal development for young men of color.

The HSOC & Health Expo is an attempt to inspire everyone to eat properly and to exercise. Throughout the day and during the performances, the audience was reminded of the health disparities that exist in the Greater Hartford community, most specifically in the area of obesity; patrons also received eye exams, gym membership discounts and health and wellness information. This year we were able to have the Visiting Nurses Association partner up with BSL and CIGNA to provide a Bio-Metrix room; which allowed for real time blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screening.

Bro. Dr. Tory Westbrook in full medical attire, along with fellow Drs. Elizabeth Evans, Wale Ayeni and Bro. Ken Alleyene, addressed the crowd about healthy lifestyles and how improper dieting and obesity can result in diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, blindness and other ailments. Intertwined between the Step Performances were: Poet Frank Brady (aka Knowledge), upcoming songstress: Lexis Hawes that had the audience wanting more after her rousing rendition of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, singer Young City Ru and returning group: G-Clef, an all male acappella gospel and praise ensemble. The Kappa Alpha Psi team from Philadelphia, PA outperformed both the Alpha Phi Alpha team (ONECA, MA) and Phi Beta Sigma team (Boston, MA), to win the Fraternity Team category. The winner for the top Sorority team was Delta Sigma Theta from Boston, MA. Each winning team received a trophy and $2000. Also participating: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc (CT Alumnae Chapter) and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc (UMASS – Amherst). The community teams featured The Gifted Ones and Talented Teens (Fox Middle School, Hartford), Star Steppers (Washington Media School, Hartford), Southern Connecticut State Step Team and East Hartford High School. Each team received $250 and complimentary passes to the event for their families. The event was co-chaired by Bros. Ken Freeman and Steven King, Jr., President of the Beta Sigma Lambda Chapter. The core members assisting were Brothers Elijah A. Oliver, Kareem Nulan, Avery Gaddis, Shontae K. White, Raymond Oliver, Dr. Tory Westbrook, Brandon McGee, Kenneth Summers and Lee Brown. On the day of the event all chapter Brothers rolled up their sleeves and assisted by accepting registrations, manning the BSL Display Booth, and aiding vendors and exhibitors. The Bushnell and Beta Sigma Lambda have secured next year: April 11, 2009 for the Fourth Annual Event; so mark your calendars now. Since there was a wait list for participating teams and a demand for more tickets we are sure the 2009 HSOC & Health Expo will be back and be even better! The BSL Educational Foundation Inc. will continue to include themes for healthy living and personal responsibility in its programming and events.

The Hartford Step-Off Classic committee is truly appreciative of the efforts of the Bushnell Performing Arts Center and Ms. Meghan Bianco, Rental Events Coordinator at the Bushnell who helped to make the event a success for the theatre and the community. On-air promotional efforts by Hot 93.7 in CT and 90.7 in MA and placement of highway and rooftop billboards in Hartford and Springfield helped to increase the awareness of the event.