When the music stops Thursday night at Ivywild School, preschool kids will be the winners.
The Community Partnership for Childhood Development, which runs the local office of the Head Start program for low-income youngsters, is hosting a fundraising finale it's billing as "Colorado Springs' largest game of musical chairs."
The event will conclude an effort that began in April to restore some of the 142 preschool slots lost to automatic federal budget cuts.
It will be held 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday at Ivywild School, 1604 S. Cascade Ave.
Tickets are $25 to play musical chairs, but the celebration is free and open to the public. The game will take place outside the front entrance and feature preschool chairs that Head Start students hand-painted for the Fill A Seat Project.
Door prizes, and food and drinks by Ivywild, a century-old former schoolhouse that has been redeveloped into restaurants and a brewery, will be available. Several chairs painted by local artists, including the Manitou Mural Project, will be auctioned.
Community Partnership for Child Development operates Head Start, Early Head Start and the Colorado Preschool Program. Along with free preschool, it provides family support and dental, health and nutrition services to 1,900 disadvantaged children and their families each year.
The organization lost $550,000 in federal funding for its Head Start program on March 1, resulting in the closure of five classrooms.
Pint-sized chairs with kids' artwork have been sold to businesses, organizations and individuals for $500 apiece.
The goal, according to Chief Executive Officer Noreen Landis-Tyson, was to raise $135,000 to save 30 lost slots. As of this week, 132 chairs have sold, totaling more than $66,000 in donations, she said. That will enable the organization to reinstate nearly 15 seats in the fall.
Roughly $10,000 is still needed for two more seats, which would fill one classroom, Landis-Tyson said.
"The community's generosity has brought us halfway to our goal of placing 30 children back in the classroom, where they will gain the skills and support needed to begin school ready for success," she said. "We hope this event will help us complete the community classroom."
A 2013 Colorado Department of Education legislative report concludes that economically and socially at-risk children in Colorado who attend preschool perform better on the state's standardized tests in math, reading and writing than their peers who do not go to preschool.
While the number of children who are living in poverty is growing, now about 13,000 in El Paso County, the ability of organizations to provide free preschool for them is decreasing.
"We can only serve 25 percent of those children through our programs," said Becca Bishop, spokeswoman for Community Partnership for Childhood Development. "There's a lot of need, and we want to continue serving as many children as we can."
Tickets for the musical chairs charity are available at www.cpcdheadstart.org/donate, or call 884-1409.
Chairs also are still available for purchase to benefit the fundraising campaign.