Junior therapeutic recreation major Kacee Hwang volunteers by dancing with high school students in wheelchairs, proving anyone can dance.
It’s Wednesday at 10 a.m., and more than a dozen high schools students get together for their weekly dance class in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
These students, who attend Widener Memorial School, begin their lesson: foxtrot, check – rumba, check. The students continue practicing their repertoire of other ballroom and Latin favorites with their dance partners until class ends, and then they continue on with their days.
Who says wheels can’t cut a rug?
These particular students can’t walk, but they can dance. Kacee Hwang, a junior therapeutic recreation major, volunteers for the American DanceWheels Foundation, an organization that sponsors the class. She said she didn’t have any background in dance before she started with the program.
“No training was required, but the person that runs it is a professional dancer, so she takes us through the steps first,” Hwang said. “We do all different styles of dance.”
ADF relies heavily on grants and offers social classes, university and high school courses. Currently, Widener Memorial School is the sole high school ADF works with, offering classes Mondays and Wednesdays.
“It allows people that use wheelchairs to feel like they can be involved as much as any other people,” Hwang said. “It’s a lot of fun just to be interactive with younger kids.”
Hwang just became involved with ADF this semester when she saw a flyer in the Therapeutic Recreation Department, and she’s already considering continuing working this summer for a Latin ballroom class with the same students. She said she’s developed special relationships with some of them.
“I’ve been dancing with this one particular person for the majority of the time I’ve been volunteering [with ADF]. We have a good connection together,” she said. “We have fun, and we feel comfortable with each other.”
Hwang also volunteers with the Cerebral Palsy Association once a month, helping members bowl at events. She said she tries to keep the comfort level high between herself and her student at ADF.
“I think it’s really important for her to feel comfortable dancing with me and feel like there’s nothing weird about or any difference,” she said.
The class has about 12 students of various grade levels. Students are able to sign up for the class as many times as they’d like, so some have been in the routine for years now.
Hwang enjoys volunteering with the ADF students, as well as those of the Cerebral Palsy Association because of the ideals it instills in them.
“[It’s rewarding] just being able to help others and making them feel included,” she said, “like they’re not outsiders and could do what everyone else can do.”
Hwang said she’ll probably continue volunteering for ADF next semester because her experience thus far as been very positive.
“Most people think that for dancing, you need to use your two legs and that you can’t dance in a wheelchair,” she said. “But it’s amazing to see what these people could do, and how good they are at it.”
Carlene Majorino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.