Articles

Embracing the Chance to Dance

Twelve-year-old Kenyon stands shoeless atop the sprawling padded mat that blankets the dance studio floor. He takes a breath, leans forward, places his hands on his knees and bends an ear toward his dance instructor, Justin Holloway. Kenyon’s eyes are fixed on Justin. Justin’s eyes are fixed on the floor-to-ceiling mirrors that line the far wall of the studio. And while Justin needs no reminder as to why he established this dance camp, a reminder is exactly what the 19-year-old finds in the reflection of himself kneeling beside young Kenyon.

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In 2015, when Justin was a junior in high school and a standout at Central Virginia Dance Academy (CVDA), he was looking for a way to share his love of dance with others. He was looking for a way to give back. That’s when he learned of a grant through the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond that would allow him to turn his dance moves into a dance movement.

“After he won the grant, he approached me about starting a dance camp for foster kids,” said Anne Wash, owner of CVDA, where Justin has been a student since it opened in 2008. “He’s always tried to reach out to others.” With the help of his mother and Anne, Justin identified UMFS as the organization he wanted to work with. The five-day summer camp has grown to accommodate not only foster children, but any child receiving services through UMFS. Dozens of children have benefitted from the camp.

“Some kids want to dance but don’t have the opportunity,” Justin said. Kids like Kenyon, for instance. Kenyon is receiving counseling through UMFS Intensive Care Coordination (ICC), a program for children with behavioral, emotional, or mental health needs who are currently in an out-of-home placement or at risk of placement. “Some people forget that those kids want to be a part of something,” Justin added.

“Dance as a whole is therapeutic,” said Anne, pictured left with Justin. “You can express yourself through dance. It’s a great outlet.” And it’s for reasons such as these that CVDA continues to host the camp even though the grant has expired. Experienced CVDA student volunteers lead the classes, and CVDA parents provide lunch each day.

“If it wasn’t for Anne’s compassion and desire to make a difference in the community, specifically with our youth, we would not be able to provide this opportunity,” said Tory Everson-Roots, Community Based Services Supervisor at UMFS. “Anne has remained dedicated to continuing the legacy that Justin started.”

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It’s the last day of camp. Kenyon has been working all week on his routine and is now moments away from performing for his peers, CVDA parents, and UMFS staff. Just like earlier in the week, Kenyon finds himself standing shoeless atop the sprawling padded mat that blankets the dance studio floor. Kenyon’s mostly soft spoken, but an unassuming confidence takes over when he’s center stage. He perks up when the music begins playing and points coolly toward Justin, who’s off to the side smiling and cheering along with the rest of the room. Everyone’s clapping, everyone’s smiling, everyone’s happy. When the routine ends, Kenyon gets a hug from Justin. He then takes a few moments to collect his thoughts and reflect on the week. “Thank you,” Kenyon says. “I’ll definitely be back next year.”

 

Collaboration multiplies impact. When donors and volunteers work together, it makes a real difference in the lives of high-risk children. Want to get involved? Visit UMFS.org.

 

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