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by Abigail Van Buren

Challenged Kids Get Chance to Shine Through Dancing

DEAR ABBY: Let me tell you about a wonderfully rewarding experience I was involved in this past year. I began dancing when I was 3. Now, at age 20, I am sharing my love for the art of dance through teaching. The owner of the studio, my second mother, Joanne Zavisa, was approached to participate in a unique project. We began a free class on Saturday afternoons for children with sensory deprivation disorder.

The children with whom we worked face a variety of challenges. Some of them cannot speak; some have a short attention span or cannot function in a regular classroom. All these children work with sensory therapists on a daily or weekly basis.

In our dance class, the children learned movements and exercises that involved every part of their bodies, and even learned to perform two dances with songs they could sing. It was amazing to see them progress from the first day to their performance. They seemed like a completely different set of kids.

This would not have been possible if we had not enlisted the help of some of the students at the studio. Dancers from the ages of 11 to 17 donated their Saturday afternoons for more than three months to give those special children an unforgettable experience. The only rewards these young volunteers received were the thanks of the parents and the knowledge they had been important in the life of a child.

You often print letters about acts of kindness. Those kids deserve to know how proud of them Joanne and I are. -- JULIE FURR, CANTON, MICH.

DEAR JULIE AND JOANNE: I'm pleased to print your upbeat, heartwarming letter -- and I join you in applauding your student activists. Yours was a program that benefited everyone involved, and it illustrates what a powerful force motivated young adults can be. You have every right to be proud.