Pole Dancing Across America Raises Funds for African Refugees

Jane Haynie performing in Cheesman Park.
Jane Haynie performing in Cheesman Park. Jake Cox
On Sunday, August 19, Jane Haynie, her husband, Chris, and their two kids, Ascher and Alyssa, were out enjoying Cheesman Park. Instead of bringing a dog along or a ball to throw, Haynie, who lives in Fort Collins, brought her portable dancing pole. At 8:30 a.m., she hopped on the pole and began dancing, kicking off her cross-country campaign to raise $1,000 through social media for refugees living in central Africa.

The genesis of her project came earlier this summer, when she and Chris were planning a road trip to visit her grandparents in Kentucky.

Haynie thought to herself, “What can we do to make it more interesting?” Then she thought of her friend and fellow dancer, Aimee Heckel, whose parents run a nonprofit that helps refugees in Africa called Think Humanity. Haynie, a marketing professional, decided to use her hobby of about two and a half years to raise funds for the organization.

“Pole dancing has been hugely inspiring and powerful for me. It really helped me open up and feel more free being myself in the world,” she says.

click to enlarge
Jane Haynie performing in Cheesman Park.
Jake Cox
The quick road-trip fundraiser, which ends today, August 21, included seven stops, spanning states from Colorado to Kentucky. At each stop, Haynie set up the pole in a public place and danced. The dancing was meant to raise awareness for the social-media fundraiser and the work Think Humanity is doing in refugee camps.

According to Beth Heckel, the head of Think Humanity, the organization's fundraisers skew more traditional —golf tournaments, for example. "It’s very unusual and definitely different than anything we’ve done before. I commend her for her creativity," says Heckel.

In addition to raising funds, the road-trip performance series was also designed to de-stigmatize pole dancing.

“The stigma is: If you’re a pole dancer, you’re a stripper," Haynie says. Though she has nothing against women who strip for cash, she says, she wants people to see pole dancing as a sport and an art.

Heckel adds: “In a refugee camp, a woman going to college is significantly more outrageous than a woman pole-dancing in the U.S.”
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.