Landmark Gift Ensures Ongoing Success for The Joffrey Ballet's Chicago Public School Residency Initiative Renamed The Joffrey Ballet Lemonis Bridge Program

August 6, 2013


CHICAGO (August 2, 2013) – The Joffrey Ballet, led by Artistic Director Ashley C. Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron, is pleased to announce that local philanthropist, Marcus Lemonis, Chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam and star of CNBC’s “The Profit”, has made a substantial leadership gift to support and enhance the ongoing work of the Joffrey’s Bridge Program, a dance education residency in Chicago Public Schools. In recognition of this gift, the program will now be known as The Joffrey Ballet Lemonis Bridge Program.

The Bridge Program provides Chicago Public School students in grades 1 and 2 with a highly structured dance experience where they develop life skills such as listening, following directions and respect; where they engage in creative expression; and where they practice physical awareness and healthy lifestyle choices. This program serves primarily African American and Latino children with more than 90% of the young students coming from low income households. It is designed to introduce children, who normally would not have any opportunity to explore classical dance, to the basic elements of classical ballet and may ultimately identify and train the next generation of dancers.

Lemonis’ gift will guarantee that the Bridge Program – which currently reaches over 400 students each year – will continue to engage Chicago’s children for the next decade while at the same time expanding the number of teaching artists, schools and students served annually.

“In light of the recent school closings and budget cuts in the Chicago Public School so much of the basic structure that the children need in their lives has been altered. Giving our youths a solid beginning can make a huge impact in his or her life and it has been proven that the arts positively impact our young people’s physical health, discipline, focus and social skills,” said Lemonis. “As a child I was given an opportunity that enabled me to pursue my passions and I am honored to offer assistance to the Joffrey’s Bridge Program as it is undeniable how valuable – how crucial – programs like this are to maintaining a balanced education and having a long-lasting positive impact for the children, who are truly our future. I encourage the community members and businesses to embrace and support this program.”

The structure of The Joffrey Ballet Lemonis Bridge Program will be set up in several phases, including weekly instruction in Chicago Public Schools, Saturday classes in the Joffrey Tower’s state-of-the-art dance studios at (10 E. Randolph Street), and participation in a four-week summer intensive program. The last phase of the program allows select students to take classes at the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, under the esteemed direction of Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik, Academy Artistic Directors.

Donations from residents, businesses and community members are a crucial part of the Joffrey’s Bridge Program’s ability to fund quality programs within the Chicagoland area. Individuals and organizations interested in donating should visit and click on the tab to make a contribution.

“In a city as large and diverse as Chicago, talent is dispersed, and often hidden, throughout the community.  The next Nureyev, Picasso or Stravinsky may be amongst us today, in a Chicago school, hungry for exposure to the arts and an opportunity to realize his or her gifts.” said Wheater. “In addition to awakening a student’s creativity and potential, dance education encourages personal discipline, teamwork, exercise, healthy body awareness and other valuable life skills. The Joffrey Ballet is deeply grateful to Marcus Lemonis for helping us bring the power of dance to the children of this city and my hopes are that other local donors and businesses will see the importance of organizations such as the Joffrey’s Bridge Program to their communities and the mentoring of our youth.”

"Education in Chicago is facing special challenges right now in the wake of school closings, layoffs and the decrease in arts education in the curriculum,” said Pierre Lockett, Director of Community Engagement and former Joffrey dancer.  “This incredibly generous contribution from Mr. Lemonis will have a huge impact on Chicago’s most underserved children, enabling the Joffrey Academy of Dance to continue stepping in to fill the gap in arts education and nurture students in the enriching, but not necessarily ‘test-able,’ way the arts do.”

About Marcus Lemonis
Known as an entrepreneur since the age of 12, Marcus Lemonis is Chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises, which is expected to record close to $2.5 billion in sales in 2013. RV Business Magazine named him their 2007 Newsmaker of the Year for having “more impact on the industry than any single individual or company in recent memory as an agent of change and retail consolidation.” Lemonis has been recognized for his multiple appearances on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and an episode of ABC’s Secret Millionaire, in which he chose to share his personal wealth with members of one of the most disadvantaged communities in the nation. Lemonis’ passion for business landed him as the star of CNBC’s new primetime reality series, The Profit, which premiered July 30. Each episode features “turnaround specialist” Lemonis, who steps in to save struggling businesses while investing his own money in the process.

Lemonis has raised millions of dollars for charities including: St Jude Children’s Hospital; NVEE, an anti-bullying organization; New Journeys, a transitional home for young women; and Neat Stuff, an organization that provides new clothes, shoes, and accessories to meet basic needs of abused, neglected and other children in distress. He is a major donor to his alma mater Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Ravinia Festival Association where he is dedicated to supporting musical arts in the community.  Lemonis also launched Project Good Samaritan, which requires his team of nearly 6,000 Camping World and Good Sam employees to volunteer 32 hours per year to causes that are meaningful to them while receiving paid time off from work to participate.

About The Joffrey Ballet
Since 1995, The Joffrey Ballet has been Chicago’s own ballet company, reaching over 150,000 people annually through its performances, classes and outreach initiatives. Just over five years ago, the Joffrey moved into its first permanent home, Joffrey Tower, at the corner of State and Randolph Streets, in the heart of Chicago’s revitalized theater district, reinforcing its commitment to Chicago and taking its place amongst the city’s preeminent cultural institutions. Joffrey Tower, with its 52,000 square feet of space, is home not only to the Joffrey’s world-class company of dancers, but has become a family center for dance in the North Loop, dedicated to nurturing young talent while also promoting diversity and inclusion in the field of classical ballet.

For more information on The Joffrey Ballet, the Joffrey Academy, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, and the Ballet’s Community Engagement programs please visit