|Harrison Bader dances with children in the Dancing Dreams program. Provided by New York Yankees.|
On Thursday, the fourth day of the Yankees' HOPE Week, the honoree was Dancing Dreams, a nonprofit started by pediatric physical therapist Joann Ferrara that provides dance classes and performance opportunities for boys and girls ages 3 to 21 with medical or physical challenges.
Classes are adapted so each child can participate to the best of his or her own unique skill set. The program focuses on abilities, not disabilities.
It began with an inaugural five-child class in 2002, and now, Dancing Dreams teaches 130 boys and girls each year in three differeny locations, in Bayside, Queens; the Upper East Side of Manhattan: and Plainview in Long Island.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone and players Harrison Bader, Domingo German, Wandy Peralta, and Albert Abreu joined Dancing Dreams children, staff, and high school volunteer assistants for a dance class at their studio in Bayside, Queens.
|A kickline with Dancing Dreams founder Joann Ferrara (center) and (from left to right) Aaron Boone, Domingo German, Albert Abreu, Wandy Peralta, and Harrison Bader. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Aaron Boone dances with DD Child Sebastian Ortiz. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Albert Abreu playing with children in the Dancing Dreams program. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Domingo German does the limbo. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Aaron Boone also did the limbo. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Harrison Bader playing with children in the Dancing Dreams program. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Wandy Peralta high-fives a Dancing Dreams child. Provided by New York Yankees.|
At the conclusion of the event, the Yankees presented a $10,000 donation to Dancing Dreams to help them further their impactful work with children. (pictured below)
|Provided by New York Yankees.|
At Yankee Stadium, before the Yankees took on the Baltimore Orioles, the group attended batting practice and took part in a pregame ceremony, in which Dancing Dreams founder Joann Ferrara received the President's Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement Award, given by AmeriCorps. Ferrara also threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
|Joann Ferrara throws out the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday night. Provided by New York Yankees.|
HOPE WEEK HONOREE: DANCING DREAMS
Pediatric physical therapist Joann Ferrara can still remember that day in 2002 when a little girl with cerebral palsy - decked out in a tutu and tiara - uttered 11 heartbreaking words.
"I wish I could be a dancer but nobody wants me."
Immediately devastated by the little girl's comment, Ferrara walked into the waiting room and informed the little girl's mother that she was starting a dance program. At that moment, Dancing Dreams was born.
Dancing Dreams provides dance classes and performance opportunities for boys and girls ages 3 to 21 with medical or physical challenges. The organization's goal is to allow its dancers to experience the joy of dance regardless of their abilities. Classes are adapted so each child can participate to the best of his or her own unique skill set. The program focuses on abilities - not disabilities.
"Growing up with cerebral palsy, I was the only physically challenged person in my family and community," said former participant Veronica Siaba. "Dancing Dreams made me see that there were lots of other kids like me...I am forever grateful to Dancing Dreams for providing me with these feelings of friendship, freedom, belonging and confidence. Not only did Dancing Dreams make me believe in myself and my abilities, but it encouraged others to see beyond my wheelchair and recognize that I am a ballerina and a dancer."
For every class and performance, each dancer is assigned a high school "helper" who volunteers his or her time each week. The nonprofit currently has over 200 volunteers who take part in the Dancing Dreams Leadership program. This initiative hosts workshops designed to encourage teamwork, promote leadership skills and facilitate critical thinking about the volunteer experience. Through the volunteer program, Dancing Dreams works to provide outreach and education in the area of disability awareness and tolerance.
Having begun with an inaugural five-child class in 2002, Dancing Dreams now teaches over 130 boys and girls each year in three different locations: Bayside (Queens), Upper East Side (Manhattan) and Plainview (Long Island).
The current class speaks over 25 languages and 92 percent of the children are on scholarship for the program. The teaching year concludes with an annual performance which serves as an onstage celebration of the children's achievements.
"This is their chance to be stars," Ferrara said. "All I care about is that they have fun and are proud of themselves and their accomplishments."
Dancing Dreams' motto is simple: "Everyone plies, they just do it in their own way."