By Ukee Washington
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A partnership between a dance studio, physical education professionals, and a couple of loving parents has given disabled children a chance to be like other kids. The week-long dance program was started in memory of a little girl who loved to dance and who died too soon.
Sammy Zajac was born with a mild case of cerebral palsy. Her parents remember how she loved to dance.
“She loved music,” said Carla Zajac, Sammy’s mother. “She had great rhythm.”
“She was always the one who always liked to take risks,” said Denny Zajac, Sammy’s father.
Sammy died unexpectedly 12 years ago. She was 8. In honor of Sammy’s love of dance, her parents with the help of parents and friends, started the Shining Stars Adapted Dance Camp. Children with disabilities meet for a week every summer at Diane Matthews School of Dance Arts in West Chester. And it’s free.
Volunteers help everybody dance their own way.
Diane Matthews, the dance school’s owner, said, “Everyone can be creative. Everyone can move from their heart and from their spirit.”
Jaelyn Wingard is one of the program’s graduates who helps the new children.
“It’s a good feeling to see the kids who have the same needs as me have them perform and love dancing,” Jaelyn said.
Dr. Monica Lepore, Shining Stars program advisor and West Chester University kinesiology professor, said children are “feeling wow, if I can do this, maybe I can do something else.”
Parents say it helps build confidence and drive. Janice Santangelo said her daughter is “very determined to keep up with kids without physical disabilities.”
For Denny and Carla Zajac, watching other children enjoy what Sammy loved is a blessing, “to give back to the community and provide children with physical disabilities the opportunity to dance the way Sammy did,” Carla said.
To find out more about the dance camp, visit the link below: