In Support of Baranova27 – Ukrainian Humanitarian Aid


Mary Lou Quinlan

I’ve been a communications executive for most of my career but now when asked “What do you do?”, I answer, “I compete in ballroom dancing.” Decades after performing onstage in college in Philadelphia followed by a career in advertising and communications, I was invited to participate in a charity ballroom dancing competition to raise money for Philly schools. In a heartbeat, this New York former-ad exec jumped. I signed up for lessons at Dance with Me USA’s Soho studio and within months, tango and rumba replaced target audience and ratings in my life. The studio I chose was founded by the Chmerkovskiy family, known for sons Val and Maks in their starring roles on ABC-TV’s “Dancing with the Stars.” 

Like all of us, I couldn’t have known then that we would all one day be dancing—and fund-raising to save and secure lives. The war in Ukraine hit home particularly hard for our founders. Within days of the devastation, dancing took on a new role, raising dollars and aid for their home country under attack. And with the same nimble acumen that founded a dance company, the family immediately took a quick turn and founded Baranova27, named after the address of their home in Odessa before coming to the US.

The Chmerkovskiy family emigrated to the United States from Odessa, Ukraine in the mid-nineties so Ukraine is near and dear to their hearts. The senior family member, Sasha Chmerkovskiy said, “I can’t go and defend the country, but in my heart, I felt this is the only way for me to be helpful.” 

Turning pain into purpose, Sasha Chmerkovskiy has launched a massive donation effort to make a difference and help people on the ground in Ukraine. In the last ten days, Baranova27, a charitable organization that is 100% volunteer-based,  has collected nearly 70 tons of essential goods being shipped directly to families and frontline heroes in Ukraine. So far, more than 50,000 items have been purchased from their Amazon registry by generous donors from across the country. Items are shipped or dropped off to Baranova27’s pop-up location in Fort Lee, NJ where they are unboxed, sorted, and packaged up by category by a team of 600+ volunteers who have collectively donated more than 6,000 hours of their time. The supplies are organized and loaded up onto pallets and shipped by both plane and cargo ship. The first shipment sent by air has already arrived into Lviv, Ukraine, meanwhile another 85,000 lbs of items are currently on their way to Poland. From there, the family has a local team on the ground who will distribute the items to areas and people in need. 

Baranova27’s 2060 Hudson Street location in Fort Lee is accepting first aid and medical supplies, equipment and tactical gear for soldiers, childcare and baby supplies, hygiene products, and new clothing, socks, and underwear of all genders and sizes. Chmerkovskiy is in communication with their team in Ukraine who relay that currently the most important supplies they need are first aid items. The Amazon registry is regularly monitored and updated based on priority and need. 

Baranova27 has grown into something bigger than the Chmerkovskiy family could have ever dreamed, thus a GoFundMe has also been set up to help support growing freight and shipping costs. They are also calling on shipping companies to provide any help they can. 

My fellow student dancers have raised dollars through dancing with Val Chmerkovskiy and by reaching out to others. This entire effort has made me so proud of Dance with Me USA, shifting from dancing for joy to dancing for others’ lives. Please help!

For more information, please visit their Facebook page for regular updates on events and opportunities to help or follow on Instagram at @Baranova27. Please feel free to contact Sarah Veltser (201) 982-3584 with any questions about donations.

About the Author:  Mary Lou Quinlan is the former CEO of NW Ayer&Partners Advertising and founder of Just Ask a Woman women’s marketing consultancy.