Special needs children get a chance to dance, move to world competition

Special needs children get a chance to dance, move to world competition

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - What started as a frustrated mom's Facebook post has now landed a Charlotte-based dance group in a world competition!

Kim Pace Smith wanted her daughter, Reagan, who is on the autism spectrum, to take dance classes.

Kim knew what a positive impact dance had on her life, she wanted that for Reagan too.

"I grew up in the dance world and Reagan's two older sisters dance. As a mom, it was something I wanted to see her do," Kimberly told me.

Reagan had been involved in other group programs, but Kimberly watched, heartbroken, she says, when Reagan wasn't always included.

"I was sitting at home. At the time, I had Reagan in a program, and watched her on the sidelines, over and over. It was heartbreaking seeing her not fit in," she said. "I have always been a huge advocate for Reagan.  I thought, I can teach dance! I can design a program for kids just like Reagan to enjoy the fun of dance."

That's when she made the Facebook post.

"I made a post: 'I wish I had some studio space so I could start a studio program for a dance for special needs'. That's literally all I put. Oh, my gosh, probably not even five minutes later I heard from Miss Donna," she remembered.

If you've lived in these parts for ANY time whatsoever, there is a very good chance you, or someone you know has had a child take dance classes at Miss Donna's School of Dance. The school's slogan, 'Making dreams come true since 1956', has done that for thousands of young kids.

When Miss Donna saw what Kim wanted to do, teach kids with special needs how to dance, she offered up her dance studio on Sardis Road North at no charge on Sundays.

"That's when 'A Chance to Dance' started! It's been a blessing ever since," Kim said.

I talked with Angie Sinyard, her daughter Sophia Grace is six-years-old and has been at A Chance to Dance since the very first recital.

"Watching her at class, and on stage, is the best feeling in the world. I have worried about Sophia for so long," Angie told me.

Sophia was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis before she even came into the world.

"I knew the path we were on before she even was born. And then there were other diagnosis that we faced. Sophia is on the autism spectrum, has ADHD, and a sensory processing disorder. Having a place where she could just be herself with other kids, and be free, was a huge concern. Finding this program was really a Godsend!"

Sophia is part of A Chance to Dance's dance team, 'Junior Novice'. In April, they performed at Legacy Dance Championship. They danced to 'Singing in the Rain'.

"It was amazing! They were the only 'differently-abled' team at the competition. After they performed their tap dance the kids got a standing ovation. I don't even have words to explain what that meant to me, the families, or to those children.

Hands down one of the best moments of my life," Kim said.

"The other teams were fantastic. It was like every special needs parent's dream come true of total inclusion from the moment we got there until the movement we left!"

The founder of A Chance to Dance fought tears as she described what happened next.

"That competition was regional. But what happens is sometimes they give out 'golden tickets'. These tickets are given by the judges to the team whose routine really touches them. It's an automatic invitation to the world competition. It was not something I was expecting…none of us were expecting. But to see how that crowd reacted, if felt so great!"

Now Kim Smith, and parents like, Angie Sinyard, must find a way to get the ten-member team to the world competition in Secaucus, New Jersey in August where they will compete in the "novice" category.

"I am determined to get our kids there!" Kim said emphatically!

The team includes the following dancers: Ava Whipple, Brady Whipple, Sophia Wood, Sophia Sinyard, Ava Rose Wright, Cameron Childers, Betty McKinney, Brianna Holsclaw, Maelee Adams, and Nicole "Fred" Miller.

Kim has set up a YouCaring site. 'A Chance to Dance' is a non-profit. She hopes people who have been touched by dance in their lives will give what they can to help these kids dance along some of the world's best novice dancers in August. We're cheering you on!!!

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