Cornelius exercise studio raises funds to build school in Kenya
Monday, Nov. 18, 2013

Cornelius exercise studio raises funds to build school in Kenya

Kadifit lifestyle studio owner Katie Dixon holds a sign declaring that members have reached their goal, raising enough money to build a school in Kenya. She's flanked by husband Mike Dixon, left, instructor Meg Gutekanst, right, and The Kilgoris Project's Director of Program Development, Tia McNelly, front.

Glance through the window of the Kadi Fit lifestyle studio in Cornelius and you’ll see a Kardio Dance class, getting down to the strains of’s “Scream and Shout.” You’ll see a group of women (and some men) sweating up a storm, smiling and laughing, attempting to pop and lock.

They have done something that you can’t see through the window. They’ve helped build a school in Africa.

Back in August 2012, owner Katie Dixon worked with Huntersville resident Tia McNelly and the nonprofit The Kilgoris Project to set a goal for members of her studio: Raise enough money to build a school in Kenya. In August 2013, just one year later, they had reached that goal, raising about $18,000. There is now a spot under a shady tree in Kenya, where local people have followed tradition and brought rocks to set down, marking the future site of the building that will educate 200 children.

Members of KadiFit raised the money in a variety of ways. Dixon began by asking members to donate $5 a month – the cost of a latte. The idea behind this is that you would barely miss what it costs to buy one cup of coffee, but it adds up. In addition, the studio hosted several African Marketplace events, featuring handmade gifts for sale to benefit the project. At local ’Tawba Walks, members, alongside their children, sold baked goods and set up a fun photo booth. Guest bartenders (part of the studio is allotted for wine and beer) were also quick to donate their night’s tips to Kilgoris.

Many members put their own talents to use. Photographer Dani Angell snapped family portraits, donating the proceeds to the project. Her husband mentioned the project to a neighbor, who needed some work done. The Angells’ kids, along with some other members, wound up helping him out – and donating the $2,000 he paid to help meet the goal.

“It was amazing to see the fulfillment the kids got from that. They took such pride in their individual efforts and learned that something so simple could impact kids across the globe,” Dixon said.

Dixon is quick to point out that the studio is very much a community; she calls those who frequent her classes “a tribe.” She’s not surprised they were able to pull together and raise the money in such a short time.

“Everyone was able to utilize all their individual talents, so we are not just one, but a group. This is just an example of coming together to do that,” she said.

Dixon, who lives in Huntersville with her husband, Mike, is expecting her first baby next month. She hopes that in the very near future, the three of them can venture to Africa and see the building firsthand. Construction will begin next year. There are also many studio members who hope to visit.

Amy Reiss is a freelance writer who lives in Davidson. Have a story idea for Amy? Email her at

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