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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.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for the letter you printed saluting military wives and husbands. I, too, am thankful for the dedicated men and women in our armed forces, and for the camaraderie of military families who support each other.

I am also pleased that the armed services have finally realized that the men and women in the services are better soldiers, sailors and Marines when their families are taken care of and watched over.

Nowadays, most military bases have family support organizations that help in these areas, and caring commanders see to it that they are manned and properly working.

A humorous incident occurred when my husband retired from the Air Force some 30 years ago. His commander also gave me a certificate of retirement. As he read the citation, "... devoted, dedicated, unselfish, unwavering ... UNFAITHFUL ... service ..." the entire division erupted with laughter. A red-faced colonel apologized, but it was a day I remember with great amusement. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, COLUMBUS, MISS.

DEAR BTDT: That's why the first rule of public speaking is to never let your mind wander -- even for an instant.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600