Tripping the limelight fantastic

Donalda Weaver has helped change lives by bringing performing arts to Vancouver’s youth.

I went from singing alone in my bedroom to performing in front of hundreds of people and even appearing on TV. I’ve worked with directors and mentors who taught me about performing and who have had a huge impact on me."

So goes just part of the testimony from a participant who said that Project Limelight, a free performing arts program for kids in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, changed her life."It’s been miraculous to see some of the changes in the kids," says Donalda Weaver. Weaver, an accountant, and her sister, Maureen Webb, started the program to help foster self-esteem, confidence and community. At Project Limelight, young people are mentored and inspired by professional artists. The program culminates with a performance (there are two each year) in a professional venue with great costumes, sets and makeup."It’s always a full house," Weaver says.

The catalyst for starting up the not-for-profit was the passing of Weaver and Webb’s mother in 2010."We were both very involved with her caregiving and once she passed away we thought, now what? Do we just carry on with our lives in the corporate world?"

From the get-go, the pair had a very special supporter: the late actor Cory Monteith, star of the TV series Glee. In the promotional video he created, Monteith said,"Project Limelight is so needed in the community. I kind of wish this was around when I was a kid."

Monteith’s vision for Project Limelight shaped much of what it became, says Weaver."And Cory introduced Project Limelight to [Virgin Group founder] Richard Branson, who donated $26,500 through Virgin Mobile’s RE*Generation program, which supports at-risk youth across Canada."

While Weaver has a history with the film industry — she owned and managed Second Avenue Studios, one of Canada’s largest casting studios — she has worked in both industry (including logging, shipping, a car dealership and a small airline) and private practice as an accountant over the years."It’s been a great career," she says.

Having her accounting designation has been invaluable in running Project Limelight, she adds."In addition to giving me the necessary accounting and management training to develop the skills to run a business, the benefits include access to a network of other CPAs for mentorship, plus the designation lends credibility to my reports and grant-funding requests. I am proud of the fact that the CMA, and now CPA designation, has a great reputation for integrity and reliability."