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Dance group brings young people with disabilities together

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA9) — On Sunday afternoons, in a studio in Rockville, Maryland, a group of young people with physical and mental disabilities come together to dance their hearts out. For the dancers and their families, the moment is pure joy.

Dance Partners International is a non-profit group that gives kids and young adults with differing abilities a place to express themselves and grow.

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“I had a deaf son. It was important for my son to be in the community and not be separated,” said Caroline Kelly, founder of the non-profit.

She brought that sense of community to other families three years ago when she and her daughter started working with this special group. Now, those young people perform at nursing homes, community events and even internationally through Special Olympics.

“It lets them be themselves…as long as you can move from side-to-side that’s all that matters and they feel good about it,” said Kelly.

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Darian Packard’s daughter, 17-year-old Joelle is one of the dancers. She was born with a genetic difference called Williams Syndrome. That has certain effects on Joelle, including problems with visual spatial deficit.

“It makes a huge difference in her daily life like the movement, going from one place to another, standing with people, that awareness,” Packard said.

That doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for Joelle anymore. “It’s taught me to go, go, go!” she said.

Darian said Joelle asked about dance for quite some time, but there wasn’t a dance team for her until Dance Partners International came along.

“Please support us, we’re a very big family and we love to dance,” said Joelle.

Donations to Dance Partners International pay for scholarships so students who couldn’t afford the classes or travel overseas for Special Olympics can also be part of the team. Classes are all taught by volunteers, and the studio space is donated.

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