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  • Jen Pruett

Feeding Families In Need!

Fresh Taste Meal Prep, HopeKids and Valley Youth Theatre team up to help feed families of children with life-threatening medical conditions

From now, through the month of December, Fresh Taste Meal Prep (FTMP), Valley Youth Theatre (VYT), and HopeKids are partnering to bring awareness, funding and meals to local families of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Whenever ten meals are purchased from FTMP, an eleventh meal will automatically be banked for a HopeKids family to pick up during a virtual benefit concert, December 19. Meals can also be specifically purchased for a HopeKids family at www.aioliburger.com/community-love/. Five meals are $40, ten meals are $74 and twenty meals are $140. The goal is to provide 200 meals to these special families during this difficult time.

VYT will host the online holiday musical special, featuring recorded performances from local talent, all under the age of nineteen. A portion of proceeds raised from online concert donations will go directly to HopeKids and the theatre will serve as a convenient and safe drive-through location for HopeKids families to pick up their donated meals from FTMP, on December 19. Valley Youth Theatre is located at 525 N 1st Street, in Downtown Phoenix.

HopeKids provides ongoing events and activities for families who have a child with a life-threatening medical condition, such as cancer. Each month, they schedule a variety of sporting events, live performances, museum visits or other types of fun activities for the whole family. They strive to keep kids focused on the future, looking forward to the next fun event around the corner, rather than dwelling on what they are dealing with in the present. All HopeKids events focus on the entire family to prevent siblings from being unintentionally overlooked, bring families together that understand their journey and are offered at no cost.

Said HopeKids Arizona’s Executive Director, Kimberly Trichel, “HopeKids and VYT have been partners for almost 20 years! HopeKids has enjoyed watching their amazing performances during the dress rehearsal before every show debuts. Bobb Cooper and his team at VYT have given thousands of families HOPE throughout the years of their partnership. We are grateful to have the opportunity to bring these beautiful performances to their families.”

VYT is honored to support HopeKids and their families. Not only do they fill the audience of every final dress rehearsal by giving HopeKids families complimentary tickets to the show, they also transform their theatre to allow for all wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility devices and transfer aids. Today, as a result of the pandemic, the theatre can reach an even greater number of these families by hosting virtual performances to enjoy at home.

VYT’s Producing Artistic Director, Bobb Cooper, said, “Our theatre has been a safe place for young people in the Valley to experience and enjoy live theatre for 32 years. Whether that’s on stage, behind the scenes or in the audience, they love the magical place it takes them to. I can’t begin to tell you how many HopeKids I’ve come to know – and love – and how often they tell me that seeing our young actors perform inspires them and gives them a reason to hang on until the next show.” He adds, “Having those children and their families as an ongoing, integral part of every show is just as rewarding for our cast and staff as it is for the HopeKids who attend those shows.”

Equally heartfelt is the fact that FTMP exists because of a desire to give back to the community. Said its Owner and Founder, Chef Tommy D’Ambrosio, “When COVID-19 struck Phoenix, our restaurant, Aioli Gourmet Burger, dispatched a prepared meals program for those staying at home. Soon after, my partner, Kyle Hollenbeck, and I realized that first responders also needed support, so we created a meal donation program to assist them as much as we could. Amazingly, with the help of the community, we donated more than 1,000 meals to the staffs at Honor Health, Valleywise Health and Phoenix Children's Hospital. That’s what sparked the creation of FTMP, giving us the opportunity to support a local cause or food bank, every month of the year.”

Chef Tommy is a VYT alum who has always had a passion for cooking. He’s a Chopped champion who has competed at the World Food Championships, and has won numerous awards, including the Scottsdale Culinary Festivals Burger Battle, several years running, and Phoenix New Times Best of Burger award in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. His Aioli Gourmet Burgers began as a food truck and grew to four mobile food units and three restaurants, in Phoenix. He also operates the successful Modern Tortilla Food Truck and Oak Wood Fire Pizza Food Truck.

Cooper added, “This partnership couldn’t be any more perfect. To bring together an organization that is so near and dear to our hearts with an alum who has gone on to do such wonderful things for the community – our VYT Kids are thrilled to be able to perform again and to do it for such a beautiful, meaningful purpose.”

For information about the concert or to donate to the event, go to www.vyt.com.

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