Alexa Rogers

Miss Arizona Alexa Rogers signs autographs for students during a back-to-school drive at Chandler Dance Center on July 24. [Eric Smith/Tribune]

Eric Smith/Tribune

When Alexa Rogers was only 5 years old, she met a little girl named Sam who was very similar to herself. Sam was bright, happy and always trying to give back to others. There was only one glaring difference between the two.

Rogers had a home. Sam did not.

Before leaving the playground that day, Sam gave Rogers a small token — a glass ornament on a red string covered in stickers – that Rogers still hangs on her Christmas tree every year.

“(Sam’s) selflessness of giving me a gift when she had nothing changed my life and since then has shaped my life to always be giving to others, especially when I have something that I’m able to give,” Rogers said.

Rogers, who recently won the Miss Arizona Scholarship Pageant in June on a platform helping homeless children, was at Chandler Dance Center on Thursday evening hosting a back-to-school drive, collecting school supplies for the roughly 15,000 homeless and impoverished children in Maricopa County through The Real Gift Foundation.

Helping homeless and impoverished children has always been a cause that is near and dear to Rogers. She has been volunteering with The Real Gift Foundation for more than a decade, which made choosing her platform a rather obvious proposition.

“I grew up volunteering around the Valley, specifically benefitting homeless and impoverished children and their families,” Rogers said. “Picking my platform was really easy because it was something I was already volunteering with, something I was already really passionate about helping out with.”

Rogers met Megan Gomez, the owner of Chandler Dance Center, through a mutual friend. The two struck up a conversation and Gomez eventually ended up choreographing Rogers’ dance routine for the Miss Arizona and Miss America pageants.

“She is a great friend now who offered up her studio for her open house to host it as also a benefit for The Real Gift Foundation,” Rogers said of Gomez. “She’s got a huge heart for helping others.”

Gomez has always desired to help her community but didn’t think she was able to do it on her own. However, she believed opening her own business empowered her to be able to give back

“When I dreamed of having my own studio, I always wanted to have a studio where we helped the community, help other people,” Gomez said.

Rogers said her goal for the event was to simply show how easy it is to give back.

“By bringing school supplies, you’re able to make their day just a little bit brighter,” Rogers said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or esmith@evtrib.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Eric_Smith__.

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