Bells of Freedom assists military families

Carmel Valley dance studio North County Dance Arts formed a one-on-one military adoption program, Bells of Freedom, which enables donors to personally thank servicemen and women who dedicate their lives to our country.

For studio owner Louis McKay, giving back is a way to repay many times over kindness shown to him and his wife Tanya years ago.

“One year when we didn’t have any money, and we were really struggling, Thanksgiving came up and we didn’t know what we were going to do or how we were going to have a Thanksgiving,” McKay said. “All of the sudden there was a knock at the door and nobody was there but a big huge basket with a big turkey in it and a pie and all the dressings and everything. And I ran out to see who was there and nobody was there.”

The McKays decided then and there that if they ever had the opportunity to help people in the same manner, they would.

An opportunity arose a few years later, when the family was in better financial shape.

McKay’s sister worked with low-income families, and during the holidays, they would ask if she knew any needy families. His sister would take the family out to see Christmas lights, while the McKays would fill the house with gifts. Later, they began sponsoring military families through their church, Solana Beach Presbyterian.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the McKays were discussing their plans to sponsor military families while in the lobby of their studio. A student overhead and expressed interest in doing the same, and soon the entire lobby was talking about sponsoring military families for the holidays. So the McKays decided to do it through the dance studio.

During the holidays of 2001, Dance Arts adopted four families, which increased to six the next year and ten the next. Soon, many wanted to sponsor an entire family. The program has grown each year, and last year the studio adopted 68 families, as well as many single Marines.

Three years ago, in order to be eligible for corporate sponsorships, the McKays founded the nonprofit Dance Hearts, and named the wing helping military families Bells of Freedom.

When the operation increased, McKay contacted the commanding officers of the battalions at Camp Pendleton about sponsoring more families. But McKay ran into roadblocks, because the Marines were reluctant to receive anything that could be construed as charity.

“I had to go and have a meeting with the commanding officers and the master sergeants and the colonels, and I told them that this wasn’t really a handout,” McKay said. After several meetings, the McKays were given names of Marine families.

Last year, a foundation gave Bells of Freedom money enabling them to send all the adopted families to Disneyland, where some had never visited.

Currently, Bells of Freedom is looking for a new corporate sponsor in the hopes of sending this year’s families to Disneyland.

For more information or to make a donation, visit or contact Louis McKay at (858) 792-9303. The donations are tax deductible and are needed year-round. All of the proceeds go to military families.

Related posts:

  1. Students share gifts with low-income families
  2. The gift of fuzz and love
  3. Cleanup, investigations continue at scene of deadly military jet crash
  4. Concerts are a draw for families
  5. Tap dance company looks to educate and innovate

Short URL:

Posted by user5 on Dec 16, 2008. Filed under Archives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply



Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6



  • La Jolla Library welcomes new chief Shaun Briley
    For La Jolla Riford Library’s new head librarian, Shaun Briley, books have been a part of his life and career, in some form or another, every step of the way. […]
  • Tangerine trees, marmalade skies for Beatles-inspired Patrons of the Prado gala in Balboa Park, San Diego
    “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was the theme of the Patrons of the Prado gala on July 12, 2014 in Balboa Park, San Diego. Beatles-inspired music came from Wayne Foster Entertainment. Sandy Redman and Jeanne Jones served as event chairs. 2014’s beneficiaries are the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Museum of Art and The Old Globe Theatre. […]
  • La Jolla’s Best Bets for events July 31- Aug. 7
    Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) offers a crash course in starting a photography collection 6 p.m. Thursday Aug. 7. at the Ligne Roset Showroom, 7726 Girard Ave. MOPA assistant curator Chantel Paul and director of jdc Fine Art Jennifer DeCarlo will share professional insights. […]




  • It’s no stretch for Rancho Santa Fe yoga instructor to ‘give back’
    As one of North County’s most prolific yoga instructors, Stacy McCarthy doesn’t just teach yoga, she lives the yoga lifestyle. Selfless service, or seva in Sanskrit, is an important concept of yoga — one that the Rancho Santa Fe resident practices daily. “When we give and we give from the heart, there’s nothing more gratifying than that,” McCarthy said. […]
  • Rancho Santa Fe resident’s Gen 7 wines earn top honors
    Rancho Santa Fe resident Tim Bacino’s Gen 7 Wines is on a hot streak, his varietals winning several awards this summer in California wine competitions. […]
  • Torrey Pines High School baseball alum Taylor Murphy excelling in pro ball
    It was during a breakout senior year at Torrey Pines High that Taylor Murphy first popped up on the radar of professional scouts. Shortly after graduation, Murphy was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 40th round of the June 2011 amateur draft. He declined, honoring a commitment to the University of the Pacific. Three years later, Murphy got another sho […]