Outreach program brings dance to kids with down syndrome

Kids Dance Outreach Director Michael Johnson moves across the floor with one of the Adaptive Dance students. (Photo Courtesy: Kids Dance Outreach)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day and one local organization is expanding it’s reach to include children with down syndrome in the world of dance. Kids Dance Outreach is offering free classes to children with down syndrome and it’s teaching students much more than just steps.

In 2014, 24-Hour News 8 introduced you to Kids Dance Outreach as the program brought dance to hundreds of Indianapolis children for absolutely no cost.

The Kids Dance Outreach Adaptive Dance Program provides free classes to children with down syndrome. (Photo Courtesy: Kids Dance Outreach)
The Kids Dance Outreach Adaptive Dance Program provides free classes to children with down syndrome. (Photo Courtesy: Kids Dance Outreach)

Now, they’re offering the same opportunity to those with special needs with the help of experts from Peyton Manning’s Children’s Hospital St. Vincent and Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

12-year-old Abby Macgregor is one of the children participating in the class and she can’t wait to step on the dance floor.

“It’s just been the perfect fit for her,” Abby’s mom, Sarah MacGregor, said.

With the drums beating, the hands clapping, and her friends by her side, Abby is ready to cut loose.

“It’s really much bigger than just learning dance steps. It’s really about improving kids lives, their social abilities and setting them up for success in the future,” Michael Johnson, Director of Kids Dance Outreach, said.

Johnson graced the stage with the Boston Ballet for 10 years. He leads the Kids Dance Outreach program along with Monica Munoz a ballerina from Puerto Rico.

“They have a passion for working with under-served kids and kids with disabilities and you just don’t get that everywhere,” Sarah MacGregor said.

12-year-old Abby MacGregor is known as a leader in the Adaptive Dance program. (Photo Courtesy: Kids Dance Outreach)
12-year-old Abby MacGregor is known as a leader in the Adaptive Dance program. (Photo Courtesy: Kids Dance Outreach)

At first, working with this new group of kids wasn’t a walk in the park or in dance terms, a chasse across the floor.

“The first few weeks it was hard to keep everybody inside the room,” Johnson said. “Now… We got it organized… The kids started to learn what does it mean to form a line, what does it mean to form a circle, what does it mean to take your turn and wait patiently while someone else is taking their turn.”

Skills these children will carry on for life, along with some killer moves. But KDO needs funding from the community to keep this class and their other programs moving to the beat.

“When people support us, they should know that it’s really going to serve the kids and give them the best opportunity we can and that feels good,” Johnson said.

Kids Dance Outreach does have it’s annual fundraiser coming up next month. Stand Up 4 KDO is set for Saturday April 23 from 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. at Park Tudor School Varsity Gym.

If you’d like to make a donation to KDO, you can do so on the organization’s website.

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