Dancing Till We Shine

The air was still chilly and crisp when the school started making plans to launch a new dance program. It was late fall 2015 and the holiday shopping season was in full swing. But another season was just getting started–a season of generosity and partnership.

These two ingredients combined to bring Dance Till U Shine to every student enrolled at the Autism Model School.

First came Jingle Bell Rock n’ Bowl. Over 70 guests–parents, students, siblings, staff members–laced up their two-tone bowling shoes and raised over $400 in seed money for DTUS. Even Santa made an appearance!

This event coincided with Giving Tuesday–a national day of philanthropy that takes place on the first Tuesday after Black Friday.

From board members to teachers to alumni parents, everyone pitched in and $490 was raised for the yet-to-be started dance program. A matching grant from the Toledo Community Foundation doubled the money the school raised, bringing the total to $1,780.

An exclamation point was put on fundraising efforts in May when the Toledo Community Foundation approved an award of $2,500 from the Helping Hens Fund. The final amount of funds raised for DTUS surpassed $4,000.

In late March this spirit of giving led to a spirit of partnership, as the school teamed up with dance instructors Sue Hayes and Devon Sullivan from Mini Motions Dance Center to begin holding dance lessons in the school’s gym.

Miss Sue and Miss Devon have brought more than just fun activities, catchy circle songs and years of experience to the program. They’ve also brought a willingness to adjust to the unique needs of students at AMS, including putting in extra time to help us create video tutorials.

Students have shown tremendous progress. Some groups have gone from learning basic steps–grapevines, spins, kicks–to entire routines set to songs from the likes of Chris Brown and S Club 7.

This exciting growth is only possible through the high level of support offered by AMS employees during each dance lesson. Staff members learn the dance steps alongside students so they can guide them and set a good example of how to act during DTUS time. As a result, students have been highly motivated to participate.

Now that the air has warmed up a bit, plans are being made for the first ever DTUS recital. When students take the stage to be the stars of the show, it will be a vivid reminder of what can happen when generosity teams up with partnership.