On December 16th, 75 of my dancers with various disabilities came together to put on our annual holiday dance recital. It. Was. Magic.
When I created this program, I always knew that I wanted performances to be a part of the deal. Growing up, my parents were involved in everything I did. My dad coached my teams, and my mom (while working full time as a nurse) never missed a game or performance. I distinctly remember watching my mom run up the hill in her scrubs to make it in time for the first pitch of one of my softball
games. I remember her driving 6 hours round-trip to watch me dance in college. I remember my parents buying season tickets (on limited budgets) to the Cavs so they could watch me perform as a Cavalier Girl. But here's the thing... I didn't know it when I was a kid, but those things were helping me develop how I felt about myself... what I believed about who I was. You look out into the audience or crowd and see your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles... and you know you matter. Period. You know that you matter and that people are proud of you and support you. You don't know it, but you are becoming a person who feels proud themselves and a person with a strong sense of self worth.
Well, guess what? Not every child gets the chance to participate in sports or recreational activities, and this limits their opportunities to experience moments like that. Kids with disabilities don't have the same opportunities, and it is no coincidence that people with disabilities experience higher rates of depression, low self esteem, and self doubt. Often times kids with disabilities end up identifying themselves with their diagnoses. If you ask a teenager with a disability to describe themselves in a few words, they will almost always include their diagnoses in that description. But guys... what if at a young age, we start instilling thoughts of self worth and pride into these kids. What if we give them opportunities to show off for their friends and families the things they CAN do. Can you imagine the difference this could make in how their self worth develops as they grow?
Every kid deserves this. ALL of our kids deserve it... and it is one of the most important parts of my program, but I could not achieve this goal through our performances if people didn't show up. We had our annual holiday recital last weekend, and PEOPLE. SHOWED. UP. The audience was packed with 700+ people there to support our dancers. There were parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, bus drivers, neighbors, and friends in that audience. My dancers looked out and saw ALL of those people there to see them. They knew that they mattered. They knew they were important.
And when that crowd of 700 people stood at the end of the show to give my kids a standing ovation, I was overcome by emotion. I created this moment for them. All of the work and time that goes into running this program all year and putting on this show... it is all for that moment. That moment that my kids feel so proud.
So worthy. So important. Thank you to every single person who attended our show. Thank you for showing these kids that they are important and that they should be so freaking proud of themselves. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart... for helping us all to believe in the magic of Christmas that day.