GREENVILLE, Pitt County - From dolls to mice, even fairies, "The Nutcracker" has it all.
"For many, "The Nutcracker" ballet is a timeless tradition around the holiday season. The Dance Arts Theatre has been performed on the stage for the last 27 years and during that time it's given back much more than just entertainment.
The back stage of Wright Auditorium is bustling as the first performance nears. Costumes have been made and will continue to make come alive line the halls.
"I started in the nutcracker when I was actually three years old," said Kelsey Von Clem, marketing director for Dance Arts Theatre.
And she knows what it takes to put on a performance.
"You're not just a part of a cast, you become a part of a family and you watch these kids year after year after year," Von Clem said.
Von Clem put away her ballet shoes two years ago. But even off stage, she's passionate about why this show is making a difference.
"You know, our motto is 'kids helping kids'," Von Clem said. "It gives them a chance to give back to the community and to help other children that need it at this time."
For the past 17 years, Dance Arts Theatre has given all net proceeds from "The Nutcracker" shows to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. To date, they've contributed more than $165,000.
"I just think it's great because its doing something that we love and I love, to give back," said Rebecca Armbruster, a dewdrop fairy who has been dancing for most of her life.
Many other cast members say "The Nutcracker" is something special and something that's looked forward to all year long.
"I think especially now during this season, I think the kids that are in the hospital that's when they need it most," Von Clem said. "And I think in today's world we all need a little bit of hope."
The performances are Saturday, December 8 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 9 at 2 p.m. at Wright Auditorium on the campus of East Carolina University. To buy tickets, please visit www.nutcrackerballetdat.com/buy-tickets.