Dance Your Dreams! is a dance program that provides dance education to children who cannot participate in mainstream dance education due to physical, mental or emotional disabilities.
Click here to watch a video about Dance Your Dreams!
Dance Your Dreams! was launched on October 13, 2008. Starting with 10 students and 10 volunteers in one class
a week, Today the program includes 40 students ages 3-12 in four classes a week, with an equal number of trained volunteers. Dance Your Dreams! provides dance education to children with special needs. Each student is paired with a trained volunteer who provides whatever level of assistance that student requires. The boys and girls who participate in Dance Your Dreams! live with a variety of challenges such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hearing and visual impairment, autism spectrum disorders and a host of other conditions. These students participate in dance class each week at no cost to their families and are provided with dance attire and costumes for their frequent performance opportunities. Dance Your Dreams! students have performed at Huntsville’s Panoply Arts Festival, at Merrimack Hall’s Evening of Dance and at their own annual recital.
Dance Your Dreams! is intended to be a creative program that encourages children to express themselves through movement. However, there can be no doubt of the therapeutic benefits of this program. We have received testimonials and reports from teachers, physicians, physical and occupational therapists and parents who tell us that participation in Dance Your Dreams! has improved core strength, coordination, agility, self-confidence and social skills in children. Some of our students are immobile, yet they can dance. Many of our students are non-verbal, yet they know just what to do when they hear music. The restorative power of the arts is at work in each Dance Your Dreams! class.
Dance Your Dreams! is serving a segment of the population that is not currently being served by any other organization. Just as our program benefits the children, the benefit to the teenage volunteers is immeasurable. Each of our volunteers has devoted their time and talent to our students. Most of our volunteers are performers themselves, trained to stand in the spotlight. But when they are performing with our students, the volunteers allow our students to take center stage and shine. The volunteers take great pride in the accomplishments and achievements of our students, as they know that it is because of their assistance that our students are able to participate in the arts. Our volunteers receive training with physical therapists and with class faculty, as well as learning the limitations and strengths of the children they work with through one-on-one interaction. True bonds of friendship have formed between our precious students and their remarkable volunteers.
Enroll a Student: Currently Dance Your Dreams! is offered in four individual classes per week, which follow the Huntsville City Schools calendar. Enrollment for the 2013-14 program year begins on August 6, 2013 for returning students and August 7, 2013 for new students. To enroll a child, contact us by e-mail or by phone at (256) 534-6455.
Volunteer: Coaches are crucial to the success of our program. We respectfully request volunteers interested in serving as coaches commit to one semester at a time. No dance experience is necessary. For information about volunteering, contact Claire Lindsay, program coordinator, by e-mail or by phone at (256) 534-6455
Donate: Dance Your Dreams! is provided at no cost to the families involved. Merrimack Hall is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and we rely on donations from individuals and corporations to offer these programs to people in need. All donations are 100% tax-deductible. Click here to donate online or call (256) 534-6455 to donate by phone.
Dance Your Dreams! is presented in honor of Jennifer Fender. Jennifer Fender was a special girl. She lived for 23 years in a battle with cystic fibrosis. Jennifer spent her 23 years in joy-filled optimism and her mind-set was always one of thinking of others – of her family that she loved so dearly and of other children who live with debilitating diseases. Jennifer was frequently hospitalized throughout her life, and the thing she found most distressing about these hospital stays were not her own personal pain and suffering, but the isolation and suffering of other children who were also hospitalized. She dreamed of places where children, regardless of their physical limitations, could run and play, as children should. She dreamed of places where children could break through the restrictions of their physical challenges and dance with joy. She dreamed of a program like Dance Your Dreams!, where those children who had previously been denied the freedom of movement others take for granted could dance their own personal dreams. The motto of Dance Your Dreams! is “I DYD It!” With gratitude and humility, we present this program in honor of Jennifer’s life. Jennifer, we DYD it!
Elianna Stanners, one of Merrimack Hall's Dance Your Dreams! students, is featured in the United Cerebral Palsy newsletter.
See the article
Major funding for this program has been provided by:
The Jane K. Lowe Charitable Foundation
(first- and second-tier funding)
Alabama State Council on the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts
Wachovia Wells-Fargo Foundation
Publix Super Markets Charities
Bringing Up Down Syndrome
The Daniel Foundation of Alabama
The Dizzy Feet Foundation
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