WARE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The Western Mass News Surprise Squad is back and we're teaming up with the Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers to help bring joy to the holiday season.
The pandemic has impacted small businesses across the country including in the Bay State.
Even in dark times, one local business owner is putting her own troubles aside and focusing on the community.
For this month’s surprise, the squad visited a Ware dance studio to see the owner was spreading some holiday cheer.
“I love this community. I love this small town. I feel like people really help one another,” said Arielle Lask.
Meet Arielle Lask. She’s the owner of Limelight Dance Center in Ware.
“We call ourselves the Limelight Dance Center family,” Lask added.
Born and raised in Ware, she’s invested in the community and passionate about giving back.
“If I can’t set that example for my students, then I’m not doing a good job as a dance teacher or a member of this community,” Lask explained.
Support this year is no doubt needed more than any other year. That’s why Lask started a toy drive, hoping to spread some Christmas cheer to families in need.
“It absolutely blew up. People from all over the community gathered together, donating toys, donating money,” Lask noted.
Aimee Henderson nominated Lask.
“To know that there is going to be families who their kids will have presents under the tree on Christmas morning, it just means a lot,” Henderson said.
With all the money and donations, Lask has been able to provide Christmas toys to kids in need - providing toys, clothes, dance gear and more.
It’s something her dance studio family recognized.
“I am so grateful to have such an amazing boss, whose even such a better person. She just does so many amazing things, not only for our dance studio but for the community of Ware and the surrounding communities,” said Rylee Pare, a dance teacher at Limelight Dance Center.
[Reporter: Obviously, you’ve seen a need for this.]
“This year has been overwhelming with the amount of need. We do scholarship programs at the studio as well and I had more people try and get scholarships this year to let their children dance because they couldn’t afford the cost, couldn’t afford the costumes…People are really struggling in this town and to have these children not have one Christmas present under the tree is not acceptable and we all have to gather together and I’m so grateful that the people in this community are able to do so and give these children the Christmas that they really do deserve."
[Reporter: If you had the ability to do more, would you be able to?]
“Absolutely, I already have five children on the wait list that have just reached out, saying if you do have any more donations, we are definitely in need. Unfortunately, we can only do so much with the money that we are given…the toys and the donations we are given,” Lask explained.
That’s where we came in! After hearing her story, together with the Hyundai Dealers of Western Mass., we decided to make her toy drive even bigger.
“I nominated Arielle because she just has such a big heart for the community that she is born and raised in, owns her own business in, and even though her business was closed down for five months because of the pandemic, she’s still putting people before her during the holidays,” Henderson added.
So, the Surprise Squad went on a shopping spree filling two carts full of toys for the boys and girls of Ware.
While we stalled Lask upstairs, the rest of the squad with the help of her dance studio family was outside setting up for the big reveal.
Lask had no idea the real reason we were there, but she would soon find out.
Lask walked outside her studio and found a table of Christmas toys and members of her dance studio waiting to help with the surprise.
“Thank you guys so much…I’m literally in shock,” Lask noted.
[Reporter: Hyundai Dealers of Western Mass., we just made a surprise. Did you just see that reaction? Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
“That was amazing. We’re so glad that we can make a difference, so on behalf of the Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers, we are going to recognize you, Arielle, for all that you do. You’re amazing and we’re glad to help you make sure everyone has Christmas gifts under the tree this year,” said Gary Rome with Gary Rome Hyundai.
In addition to the toys, the Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers gave Lask a $500 check to help even more families.
“Thank you so much for all you’ve done to make a difference in so many people’s lives,” said Carla Cosenzi with Country Hyundai.
“so many kids are going to have an amazing Christmas, thanks to her,” Pare added.
Lask noted, “With this extra money, now I’ll be able to get everyone on my list!”
She’s a true hero in the community and not even the pandemic can ruin her mission of making this holiday season better one toy at a time.