Two local nonprofits celebrate 20 years

SANTA FE, NM – Two venerable Santa Fe nonprofits – Assistance Dogs of the West and the National Dance Institute – are proudly and happily celebrating their 20th anniversaries.

In 1994, the fabulous Mr. Energy himself, Jacques d’Ambois, hit Santa Fe fresh from The Big Time dancing in The Big Apple. On the side he had started the National Dance Institute, teaching ghetto kids edgy, running-jumping-turning-leaping dances that also turned their elementary school lives around forever (that’s when you have to catch ‘em). They found value in themselves, and turned away from gangs, and drugs. They didn’t necessarily grow up to become dancers, but they found direction.

So when Jacques moved to Santa Fe, NDI came to Santa Fe! It started with only one school, Acequia Madre. Then several years ago, beautiful Catherine Oppenheimer took over the reins from Jacques, and the program expanded to include every elementary school in our district.

The students work all year long rehearsing their dances for the annual Big Production at the dance barns.

This year, 350 spellbound supporters attended their fantastic production, “Broadway Bound,” on May 3 and afterwards themselves danced at the festive celebratory Anniversary Dinner.

For more info, go to

A big dog party

Lily is a very special dog. She can sense right before her owner is about to have a seizure, and she leaps upon her and holds her down with all fours until the event is over. Sense of smell, reaction to pheromones, ESP, training … a combination? Whatever it is, she has saved this disabled woman’s life a number of times.

Lily is a graduate of the “Assistance Dogs of the West” program, started 20 years ago by Jill Felice, that trains and matches service dogs to folks who need them. For everyone from autistic children to vets returning disabled from wars to people with injuries or diseases, these dogs are caregivers, companions, friends and actual lifesavers.

Jill is still enthusiastically working with the dogs and her program is now a national model for service dog training and placement. On a recent Sunday afternoon, her friend Ali MacGraw gave an eloquent and impassioned plea for support to 75 guests at a fundraiser at Ernie Schmider and Omar Rodriguez’s historic John Gaw Meem home.

Several of the guests were service dogs themselves who performed their skills on cue – like jumping into the huge fountain one right after the other!

You didn’t want to be standing nearby when they got out and shook! Learn more at

Ashley Margetson has a B.A. in English from UCLA, is a senior real estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty and has her finger on the pulse of philanthropic activities in Santa Fe. To tell us about an upcoming event, email


Linda Love loves NDI!


Beth Moise and Catherine Oppenheimer before the National Dance Institute performance.


Judith Newton got her dog, Chablis, from Assistance Dogs of the West.


Theo Raven with Chablis, Judith Newton’s assistance dog.


Ernie Schmider in his historic courtyard for Assistance Dogs of the West.


An animated Ali MacGraw raises money for dogs.


Christian Argyres and Linda Milanese of the Assistance Dogs of the West board.


Scott and Melissa La Puerta Coleman on their way to the NDI performance.


Elizabeth Lang and Kathleen Pugh at NDI’s cocktail hour.


Ted and Marcia Berridge sip champagne before the NDI show.


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