Our volunteers are a crucial part of our programming, and we are so thankful for their dedication and commitment to ensure our dancers have the best experience possible. As a way to recognize our volunteers’ efforts and show how much we appreciate them, every year we run our Volunteer Outstanding Achievement and Commitment Appreciation Awards.
Please join us in congratulating and giving a big shout out to our 2019-2020 award recipients!
Graduate’s Outstanding Achievement Award ($200) – Presented to a graduating volunteer who has committed over 300 hours to the program, has been an exemplary role model sharing their passion for dance, and demonstrates the values of The Dance Ability Movement in their everyday lives. The award is presented to a student who is pursuing post-secondary education in the fall.
Commitment Appreciation Award ($100) – Presented to a volunteer who has demonstrated dependability in their volunteer role and a long-standing commitment to The Dance Ability Movement, contributing multiple years of service to the program. Recipients are committed to promoting inclusion and demonstrating the values of The Dance Ability Movement.
Here are some reflections from our 2019-2020 award recipients about their experience with The Dance Ability Movement and plans for the Fall!
1. How was your experience with the Dance Ability Movement?
Anastasia – I mean I wouldn’t say “how was” my experience, since I’m definitely not done volunteering with Dance Ability, but so far, it’s been amazing! Choosing to begin doing classes with the DAM was probably one of the best decisions I could’ve made. I have volunteered at Dance Elite in Milton for 4 years now, and when I began volunteering, the DAM definitely helped me to bring dance back into my life in a time when I wasn’t dancing.
I am incredibly grateful to Mallory and Jade for all of the opportunities that Dance Ability has given me as I have gotten to participate in so many amazing things through the program. This includes performing at community events, going to info-fairs, and just getting to dance with so many incredible people! Even though I, myself am not a ‘dancer’ in the DAM classes, I feel like I get just as much out of the classes as any of the dancers would. I’ve made so many great relationships with the dancers, volunteers and teachers that I would not have made without being a part of Dance Ability. My experience with the DAM so far has been incredible, and I’m certain that it will continue to be amazing!
Claire – My time that I have spent working with Dance Ability has been an experience that I will never forget. The atmosphere was friendly, welcoming and always a joy to be apart of.
Emily – My time with the Dance Ability Movement has been an incredibly positive experience. I have learned so much and have become friends with so many volunteers and dancers. I love dancing with everyone in class, and leave every Friday night feeling so happy.
Haylee – My experience with the Dance Ability Movement was as always, lots of fun. I always enjoy the classes and getting to be with the students. Even though our last classes were over zoom, it was great to still see everyone dancing.
Jadyn – My experience volunteering with the Dance Ability Movement was amazing! I formed so many deep connections with other dancers and volunteers and truly made some lifelong friends. I have so many wonderful memories from the program, whether performing at recitals or special moments in class. I always looked forward to going to classes every week and loved seeing all of the dancers!
Kelly – My experience with DAM has been eye-opening and a learning experience for me because with each dancer I have worked with I have learned a lot from them and learned more about myself over the six years I have been volunteering. From the first day I started until now I feel like the dancers and the other volunteers have helped me come out of my shell and showed me that I really want to work as an ABA therapist (autism behavioral analysis) to continue helping children in my community.
Kristyn – I’ve been volunteering with the DAM for 5 years now and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to volunteer because it’s been such an influential and rewarding experience. My experience with Dance Ability has been amazing and Mallory Ryan and Chiara Mabrucco played a huge part of it, they always have a smile on their face and an encouraging attitude that adds so much to the positive and upbeat environment of each class. My DAM experience has not only given me unlimited opportunities to connect with such amazing dancers and volunteers, but also so many opportunities to explore different ways to connect with and support the special needs community. Through Chiara, I learned about being an inclusion counsellor which is a one-on-one camp counsellor for individuals with special needs in a general camp setting. DAM has been one of the best experiences and I’ll definitely miss it when I go to post-secondary!
Leah – I am so incredibly proud to be a part of The Dance Ability Movement community. I have been lucky to know Jade and Mallory since before it all began and when they started, and needed some extra hands on deck, I was very excited to jump on board! Over the past ten years, I have continued to be a part of the movement in various capacities and it has been such an amazing learning opportunity along the way. The dancers, volunteers, parents, siblings (and other family members), dance teachers, OT’s, and community partners all bring such a unique perspective and skill set.
Rebecca – My experience with DAM was amazing. I learned so much about myself throughout my years volunteering here and had so much fun too!
2. What was the most important thing you have learned while volunteering with us?
Anastasia – I think that the DAM has taught me tons of things, but I would say that the most important thing I have learned is just how to let go. In the past, I have been very uptight and concerned about other peoples’ opinions of me, but being a part of a community like Dance Ability, where you are free to just be yourself without worrying about others’ judgement, has helped me to just let loose. I have learned that it’s okay to be silly and goofy and to just have fun without worrying about what anyone else thinks, because most of the time, people really aren’t judging. Even if they are, as long as you’re being yourself and enjoying yourself, it doesn’t really matter what others think.
I’m definitely still uptight sometimes, but I have definitely found myself letting go more and more since I started volunteering with the DAM. In addition, even though this is something that I learned through Dance Ability, it has helped me in other aspects of my life as well. The DAM has a great impact both in and out of the dance studio, and I think that that’s pretty amazing!
Claire – The most important thing that I have learned while volunteering with the Dance Ability Movement has been building strong bonds and relationships with others. The people within this community have been so welcoming and always looking for ways to help people in need.
Emily – Dance Ability has helped to shape my perspective on inclusion, and has shown me that everyone can share in our love of dance. Learning from my friends at Dance Ability has taught me so much about the importance of accessibility and inclusion. Colleen, Mallory and Jade have been such positive and encouraging mentors over the last four years and are always teaching me new things.
Haylee – The most important thing I have learned from volunteering with the Dance Ability Movement is flexibility. We are always looking to try new strategies to help the dancer reach their fullest potential. Something that works with one dancer doesn’t mean it will work with another. We need to be flexible in order to help the dancers get the most out of the class
Jadyn – The most important thing I learned while volunteering was from my dance buddies. They taught me to always look on the bright side, stay positive and that anything can be accomplished if you believe you can!
Kelly – The most important thing I have learned from volunteering with the Dance Ability Movement is how much the dancers enjoy having the volunteers to talk to and to build meaningful relationships with. DAM has taught me that we can learn from each other – dancer to volunteer, volunteer to volunteer, dancer to dancer – and that helps to make the Dance Ability community strong and supportive as a “dance family.” Everybody involved with the DAM grows as a person.
Kristyn – The most important thing I learned from the DAM was to never underestimate the power of friendship. Prior to volunteering with the DAM, I was never exposed to a role where I would see the direct effects of befriending and supporting an individual, regardless of their physical or mental capabilities. Every year it was amazing to see how far your buddy had come at the end-of-year recital and it was always the best feeling to hold your buddy’s hand, your new friend, and take the final bow for the year.
After 5 years with the DAM, and 5 years of the best buddy relationships I could’ve asked for, the DAM taught me that friendship is the most effective tool to share their passions and knowledge.
Leah – I think over the years my knowledge and understanding of the word “inclusive” has broadened thanks to The Dance Ability Movement. It has taught me that inclusivity isn’t just about reducing the physical barriers but it’s about creating a space where people feel valued and cared for. I love the small moments like hanging out in the lobby before class starts, when the dancers and volunteers cheer and yell out “great job!” when we’ve mastered new choreography, and when we sing (or sign!) happy birthday to celebrate a special occasion. This is where we gain a true sense of belonging and what inclusivity is all about.
The Dance Ability Movement is so much more than dance steps, it’s about friendship, creativity, celebrating success (no matter how big or small!) and feeling like we truly belong. It has been such an incredible learning environment on both a professional and personal level and I am sure that the learning will only continue.
Rebecca – The most important thing I learned while volunteering with The Dance Ability Movement was to always be accepting of others, especially those who are different from me in some way. I learned to appreciate the unique qualities that everyone possesses and how to use those advantageously to benefit the group as a whole.
3. What are you going to do in the Fall?
Anastasia – I’m going to Wilfrid Laurier University for health sciences. For the fall term, my classes will be online, but the university is hoping to have in-person classes by January. Don’t worry though, I’ll still be around for our Dance Ability classes since they’re on the weekend!
Claire – I am entering Grade 9 and hope to continue volunteering with Dance Ability.
Emily – I will be going to McMaster University for Integrated Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences. I am so excited to start university, and hope to continue volunteering with Dance Ability in the future.
Haylee – I’m going to be starting college online.
Jadyn – I will be attending the Western University for engineering.
Kelly – I will be starting my final year in the Early Childhood Education program at Sheridan College before I hopefully start working on my Autism and Behavioural Sciences graduate certificate in Fall 2021. I am also really excited about starting my 7th year with Dance Ability.
Kristyn – I will be attending the University of Western Ontario for nursing!
Leah – I work full-time as a social worker in paediatrics so I will be continuing with that 🙂
Rebecca – I am going to the University of Western Ontario in the fall where I will be studying business with Ivey AEO (advanced entrance opportunity) status.