Volunteer Spotlight: Lydia Conroy

Lydia and Amy

Lydia and Amy

It’s time for another volunteer spotlight. Meet Lydia Conroy. She has been volunteering with danceability for the past three years on Thursday evenings. She enjoys dancing with her partner, Amy Zelasko. We asked Lydia about her danceability experience and here’s what she had to say:

Why did you decide to volunteer?
I found out about danceability through a family friend that works fro People Inc. She shared a post recruiting volunteers on Facebook. I originally became interested in volunteering because I took dance for 15+ years at Kay Duffy School of Dance in Springville, and it is something I have grown to miss as an adult. I also grew up as the only child of two teachers, who felt very strongly about community service so it seemed like a great fit. 

What is your favorite part of class?
I actually have two favorite parts…I love the time before class starts because the girls always come in and high five me or give me a huge and tell me fun things about how their week is going. I also love when we have learned a new part of our routine and Miss Robin asks if we are ready to run it from the top because Amy is always the first shout, “YES!”. She’s extremely enthusiastic about learning new things. 

What would you tell potential volunteers about joining danceability?
I think people are always afraid that you need dance experience to volunteer. You definitely don’t! All you need is a good attitude, a big heart and a desire to learn. The teachers at danceability can teach you everything you need to know, and they are all excellent at explaining things in a fun and simple way. 

What is your favorite dancebility memory to date?

Lydia with the class she volunteers in!

Lydia with the class she volunteers in!

In just the short time I’ve been volunteering, I have dozens to choose from. My absolute favorite would be a few weeks ago at the Bandits game. They do a little bit during one of the timeouts where they play, “Everybody Dance Now” and show people in the crowd dancing on the Jumbotron. A few people in, the camera zoomed in on Amy dancing her heart out wearing her danceability shirt of all things! She was doing such a good job that they showed her twice. She represented herself and danceability in such an awesome way. I am super proud of her!

Danceability is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year – what is your wish for danceability for the next ten years?
My wish is for all of Buffalo to know about danceability. I have brought new people to each of our Annual Performances and they are always blown away at what an incredible performance it is. I encourage anyone who is looking for a new experience or something to get involved with, to volunteer. It really is the best part of my week, and something I look forward to doing for many years to come. 


Thank you to Lydia and our over 90 volunteers who cheer on our dancers each week in the studio. We can’t do it without you and we can’t wait to see you all perform at our 10th Annual Performances in May.

 

 

Student Spotlight: Amy Zelasko

Here's a picture of Amy (right) from our very first year of danceability back in 2007.

Here’s a picture of Amy (right) from our very first year of danceability back in 2007.

Meet Amy Zelasko (and her Mom, Sue). Amy is one of our ten year danceability dancers.  The Zelasko family have all been huge supporters of danceability, supporting us at various fundraisers, attending community events to speak on behalf of danceability and of course watching Amy and her fellow dancers shine onstage each year.

We asked Amy and Sue what their danceability experience has been like. Here’s what they had to say.

Amy: Thank you for dancing with us for the past ten years! What made you join danceability?
I knew Miss Robin from another program. She was my teacher there, and when she opened danceability I had to come along. Many of my friends were also joining danceability so I knew I wanted to be there. Plus, I love Miss Robin 🙂 

Amy: What’s your favorite part of class? Do you have a favorite dance move or type of dance?
My favorite part of class is whenever we learn new dance moves. It’s always great to try something new. My favorite dance move is the shimmy, but I also like hip-hop (even though it’s not Miss Robin’s favorite)!

Amy: Do you have a favorite routine you performed at the Annual Performances?11048680_10154234806407786_7664152516042868547_o
I love all my performance dances, but if I have to only pick one I would pick “Dance of the Hours”. We were sassy ballerina dancers. That year, my cousin Taylor was my volunteer!

Sue: What changes have you seen in Amy since joining the program? How has the program benefited her?
Amy has so much confidence in herself. She is not afraid or shy when it comes to dancing. Because of danceability, and everything she has learned in class, she has been part of the dance ensembles for the Middle School and High School musicals at Cheektowaga Central School – Willy Wonka, Guys & Dolls, Wizard of Oz, High School Musical, and this year Bye, Bye Birdie. 

Sue: Explain how you feel when you see Amy in class or performing on stage.
I tear up just thinking about how proud I am of her (and all the dancers). I think the entire audience looks forward to seeing the routine that her class will be doing. I may be bias, but I think her class always has the best routine!

Amy and her class before the 2014 Annual Performances

Amy and her class before the 2014 Annual Performances

Amy: What are you looking forward to in class this year?
I am looking forward to being part of the “Cheers to 10 Years” Gala in April and of course the Annual Performances. I can’t wait to learn our new routine for the show.

Sue: What would you tell other parents/families who are thinking about enrolling their child in the program at danceability?
I would tell other parents/families, don’t think, just get your child enrolled! Besides the child learning different dancers, they make friends forever. So do the parents. Our group of parents sit in the waiting room, we talk, we laugh, we cry. It is therapy for us. We share ideas of things that work or may not work if our child is having a problem with something.
 Amy: What would you tell other potential dancers about why they should join danceability?
Danceability is a fun place! You make friends, you learn new moves and the volunteers are great. 

Thank you to the Zelasko Family for being such a big part of our danceability family! We are lucky to have so many dancers who have been with us since the start.

And since the cat is out of the bag, we are adding an event in 2017 – our “Cheers to 10 Years” Gala on Saturday, April 22nd.

The event will feature very special performances from many of our ten year dancers. More information will be out in the next few weeks, but save the date!

Definitely don’t forge to put Saturday, May 13th on your calendar. That is the day of our 10th Annual Performances. Showtimes, location and ticket information will be out in March!

Danceability family holiday traditions

Holiday time is such a festive and joyous occasion, and just like our dancers, our dancers’ holiday traditions are as diverse and awesome as they are. Whether they’re celebrating Christmas, Chanukah or anything in between, they are always having fun!

Check out some of our dancers’ family traditions with their families!

Patrick helping decorate the tree

Patrick helping decorate the tree

Patrick Zolnowski’s family starts the holiday season off by going to the Festival of Trees downtown at the Hyatt to see all of the decorated trees and wreaths, especially since the festival benefits Women and Children’s Hospital. Patrick and his family also go to the Festival of Lights at the Fairgrounds, and they love to drive through and look at the light displays and activities in the buildings.

Who could forget tree decorating? Patrick’s family decorates their two Christmas trees on Thanksgiving weekend. One of the trees, the family tree, is placed in the living room, and all the family gifts are placed there. The tree in the family room is the Santa tree, where Santa leaves the presents for Patrick and his sister.

Christmas Eve is spent with their family’s extended family, about 40 people (whoa!). The party is loud, chaotic, busy and really fun. The next day though is much quieter on Christmas. The family opens presents all together, and then goes to Grandma and Grandpa’s for brunch and more gifts.

Sounds like Patrick has an amazing Christmas holiday!

Caleb Sendziak also enjoys a great Christmas. Caleb and his family like to choose their tree early in December to ensure they enjoy it all month long. It has to be a Frasier Fir. Caleb helps put the ornaments on the tree, of which the family has so many fond memories with.

They place a light in each window of their home and keep them on all day and all night during Advent. They even put a red ribbon on a very old pair of snowshoes and lean them against their tree

Caleb looking nice and festive in his Santa outfit

Caleb looking nice and festive in his Santa outfit

in the front yard. The grandchildren help set up the crèche as well.

On Christmas Eve Caleb and his family enjoy a reading of “The Night Before Christmas” by the fire, and Caleb puts out milk and cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

On Christmas morning the family enjoys homemade waffles with their favorite toppings and then head to church. All of their family get togethers seem to end in a dance party. (We at danceability can definitely get down with that!)

The Sendziaks’ New Year is just as exciting and they ring in the New Year with a trip to Canalside to skate and ride the ice bikes.

Sounds like the Sendziak’s are definitely ending 2016 on a very positive note!

Nick Hallgren spends the holidays with his family also. Nick’s parents are both the youngest of four children, so there are six sets of aunts and uncles, and many cousins to spend time with.

On Christmas Eve, the Hallgren’s attend Nick’s Grandfather’s church, where they enjoy watching Grandpa sing in the choir, during a beautiful, candlelit service. After church, the family meets up with the rest of Nick’s father’s family for cookies, eggnog, and to exchange gifts. One tradition that is special for Nick is that he always receives a new pillow pet on Christmas Eve – he sleeps with his pillow pet every night! Nick also enjoys playing with his youngest cousins before they head up to bed to wait for Santa.

Nick

Nick with one of his pillow pets

On Christmas morning, the family enjoys their traditional egg strata, homemade sticky buns, and opening presents. Nick’s dogs, Halo and Chester, often help Nick open his presents too. Nick still believes in the wonder and magic of Christmas, and Mom and Dad love to see his face first thing on Christmas morning. He always loves all of his gifts, but especially receiving a new snake, action figures, and all things Disney. After a relaxing afternoon of playing with Nick’s new toys, Nick and family head to dinner with mom’s side of the family.

The Hallgren’s also have a special tradition on New Year’s Eve. For the past three years, they have attended a New Year’s Eve Bowling Party at one of the local alleys. Many family members join them to bowl for a couple of hours, have pizza and snacks, and have an early “countdown to New Year’s” for the younger kids, who might not make it to midnight.

Sounds like a great alternative to us!

Taylor McLanahan’s family celebrate Hanukkah, and has eight days of fun. Taylor’s family kicks off the Hanukkah season with a program ran by their synagogue, Beth Tzedek. It is an outreach program for all Jewish people in the greater Buffalo area with special needs. It starts with a short service and a retelling of the Hanukkah story, and culminates in a festive meal including latkes which are potato pancakes.

Taylor’s oldest brother, along with his wife, and Taylor’s niece will be visiting from NYC to celebrate the holiday with his sister and rest of the family.

The family will have a Hanukkah party on Friday for friends and family, and on Saturday 12/24, the family plans on heading down to Ellicottville for some tubing and after an afternoon nap, they will be going out to dinner to celebrate mom’s birthday on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, Taylor and her family are invited to brunch at the home of close friends, and then we will do what every Jewish family does on Christmas Day…a movie and Chinese food for dinner!

Then, the family follows up the end of the eight days with a Hanukkah party at Temple Beth Zion on 12/30 to culminate their holiday celebrations.


A BIG thank you to our danceability families for sharing their traditions with us. We love hearing about how you spend your time outside of the studio, and we’re looking forward to seeing you all again in the New Year. Happy Holidays, danceability family!

Student Spotlight: Nick Hallgren

Dancer Nick with his volunteer

Dancer Nick with his volunteer

Meet Nick Hallgren. Nick has loved to dance since he was a little kid, so when danceability opened its doors in 2007, it was natural that he joined the studio. Nick has remained a part of our danceability family for all TEN years and it’s been such a joy to watch Nick grow up before our eyes. We asked Nick and his mom, Janell, what their danceability experience has been like.

Here’s what they had to say:

Nick: What’s your favorite part of class and what do you enjoy most about coming to danceability?
I love walking into the studio and getting to greet and say hello to my friends. We catch up on our weekly activities, share jokes and high fives throughout class. I love when we do tap and some break dancing! I love making people laugh and dancing with my friends. It’s been a great experience.

Nick: What would you tell potential dancers about joining danceability?
I would tell them to come out and dance with us. It is fun and definitely give it a try.

Nick: Which performance piece has been your favorite?
Definitely Fireball!

Janell: What changes have you seen in Nick since joining danceability?

Nick and his classmates before the 2016 Annual Performances

Nick and his classmates before the 2016 Annual Performances

Nick has become more confident and willing to try new activities. Nick and his friends have grown up together and always look out for each other.

Janell: What is your favorite part about coming to danceability?

My favorite part is the feeling of community among the parents and families. We learn from each other and share information about programs and services for our kids. We discuss our children’s struggles and share in their successes. Besides danceability, our kids participate in Special Olympics and other sports together. Also, we share information about our other kids, struggles and successes in college and beyond! Since we’ve been together for so long, we truly love these groups of families.

Janell: What would you tell families about joining danceability?
I’d say not to be afraid and give it a try. I think some parents might fear that their child would be too disruptive or unable to participate, but the teachers are able to customize a program for kids with all types of challenges.

BOTH: It’s danceability’s 10th year – what do you wish for danceability in the next ten years? 
We hope it continues to grow and welcome new students and families.
Nick and his current classmates at danceability!

Nick and his current classmates at danceability!

BOTH: What is your favorite danceability memory to date?

Our favorite memories are at the Annual Performances each year. The kids love getting dressed up, having their pictures taken and dancing on stage. It’s such a special day for all the families.


We love hearing stories from our parents and dancers. Thank you to the Hallgren family for being so supportive of danceability over the past ten years. In addition to supporting our program, Janell is also serving on our “Cheers to 10 Years Gala” committee. We hope you will save the date – Saturday, April 22nd, 2017, and join us for a wonderful night of celebration. Many of our 10 year dancers will be reprising a routine they previously performed at one of our Annual Performances. It will be a night you don’t want to miss. Stay tuned for more details in the new year.

Volunteer Spotlight: Vera Parker Kennedy

Vera with one of her dancers backstage

We are back at it with another volunteer spotlight. This month, we are featuring Vera Parker Kennedy. Vera has been volunteering with danceability for five years. Vera has been such a positive force for our dancers, always is eager to help out and ready to jump in where needed.

Vera also helped us raise money in our “Move To Your Own Beat” Crowdrise campaign last year leading up to our Annual Performances. She raised over $1,000 for danceability! Incredible!

Learn more about Vera’s danceability experience and why she keeps coming back!

Why did you decide to volunteer at danceability?

I first heard about danceability at the Elmwood Arts Festival and since I was in school for education at the time, I thought it sounded like a wonderful opportunity to explore both dance and special education.

What is your favorite part of class?

Seeing the smiles as the dancers walk through the door, connecting with them over silly songs, being inspired regularly by their perseverance, enthusiasm, and laughter, experimenting with movement and instruments…am I allowed more than one favorite part?!

What would you tell potential volunteers about joining danceability?

Danceability has been an incredibly important and enriching part of my life for the past five years. It is rewarding in so many ways, and I know many other volunteers feel the same. 

Vera and a dancer in studio

Vera and a dancer in studio

What is your favorite danceability memory to date?

I’ve danced with Roman for several years, and without fail, his joyful greeting cheers my Monday nights right up. One of my favorite memories of our time together is dancing to “Animal Action”,  a class favorite – Roman makes an excellent monkey!

Danceability is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year – what is your wish for danceability for the next ten years?

My wish for danceability is that it continues to bring people together through movement, music, dance and laughter for many, many years to come!
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Thank you, Vera for your dedication to our dancers.
If you are interested in getting involved at danceability, reach out to us at 716-651-0094 or by email.
We will be back with another volunteer feature

Thankful

Miss Robin & Miss Christine accepting a donation from Health Force, our largest donor!

Miss Robin & Miss Christine accepting a donation from Health Force, our largest donor!

We’ve been doing a lot of reflecting this year as we celebrate our 10th year. It’s amazing to look back on where we started and see how far we have come. The danceability story is a great example of how much of a difference you can make in a community if you keep working hard at your passion. Miss Robin & Miss Christine had a dream and a goal, and they have worked hard to ensure that their dream continues to “dance out” for many more years to come.

Along the way, we have had so much support from our community, who we consider a part of our danceability family. We are thankful for you each day, but seeing as how Thanksgiving is tomorrow, we wanted to take some time to thank many individuals, foundations, companies and volunteers for helping danceability along the way.

When we say thank you, we have to start by thanking Health Force. Their amazing financial support has helped ensure our first ten years were a success.

We have been lucky to receive grant funding from The Children’s Guild, The Kelly for Kids Foundation, Ingram Micro, Tegna, Give for Greatness, The Community Foundation and more!

Many companies and organizations have supported us by hosting fundraisers and dress down days including the Daemen College Student Physical Therapy Association, the Women Lawyer’s of Western New York, Hodgson Russ LLP, J’s White Elephant, Mangia Restaurant, Freed Maxick CPA’s, Fred Astaire Buffalo, Embrace the Difference, and many more!

We’ve received so much support through the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County donor designation program and SEFA campaigns. In the past few years, we’ve also utilized Crowdrise and received many donations through their site.

Daemen College donated over $4,000 earlier this year!

Daemen College donated over $4,000 earlier this year!

When we have hosted fundraisers, we have been fortunate to receive sponsorship support from various companies including ECC, Insty Prints, Employee Resources, Rembrandt Charms, Program Savvy and many more. We’ve sold out fundraisers and have welcomed so many guests to our events who have all supported our program. So many have stepped up to the plate and donated through our Annual Appeal and made recurring donations throughout the year.

Every dollar raised we take seriously – and make sure we are putting donor dollars to use to make sure our dancers are receiving the best programming available.

In addition to so many donating to danceability, we have had hundreds donate their time through volunteering. We are fortunate to have over 90 current volunteers working with our dancers in the classroom. We say it every chance we get, but our volunteers are the backbone of danceability. We can’t be who we are without their countless hours of support. We’d like to especially mention two volunteers – KasieLynn Schultz and Christine DeCaro, who have been with us for all ten years. In addition to our classroom volunteers, we’d like to thank our Board of Directors both current and previous who have given their time and talents to guiding danceability on a path of growth. There are many others who volunteer, whether it be helping at our fundraisers, sewing costumes for our performances or helping out in the office, and each of you have made a lasting impact on our organization.

picture1At one point Miss Robin & Miss Christine taught all the classes. As we have continued to grow, we have been fortunate to hire the best teachers to help out. This year, fittingly, we have ten teachers who all bring so much positivity to their classes. We are so thankful for you! We’ve hired office staff along the way and we can’t do it without Beth Gianturco and our newest hire, Miss Beth Hess who help make sure our office runs smooth!

Last and certainly not least, we thank our dancers and their families. What can we say? You guys are the best! We do this for you and we can’t thank you enough for your energy, your smiles and your passion for danceability.

There are hundreds of names we could list individually. So many faces that walk in and out of our studio each year who have made a difference for a dancer. We are so thankful. So very thankful for your support today and every other day!

We wish everyone in our danceability family a very special and happy Thanksgiving. We will be thinking about you around our table this year and we look forward to continuing to serve our dancers for another decade (and beyond!)


Help us say “Cheers to 10 Years” this holiday season with a donation to our Annual Appeal campaign.
Learn more, here.

Student Spotlight: Sabrina Schuster

Many of our dancers have been with us for a while. Over 30 have been with us for all ten years! Today, we are featuring dancer Sabrina Schuster, who is one of those ten year dancers. We asked Sabrina and her Mom, Patrice some questions about their experience with danceability so far.
Here’s what they had to say!
Sabrina striking a great pose in the orange!

Sabrina striking a great pose in the orange!

Sabrina: Why did you join danceability? What’s your favorite part of class?
I joined danceability because I love listening to music and dancing.  My friend Jamie and I danced with Mrs. Christine before and followed her when she opened danceability in 2007.  She is a great teacher. My favorite part of class is dancing with my team and volunteer.  I like tap because I like the tap shoes and I also like going barefoot when we dance freestyle. I love coming to danceability because it is fun and I like learning the dance we perform in May. I love being onstage!!

Sabrina: Which Annual Performance routine has been your favorite?
I cannot choose! Each one has been my favorite. I loved wearing all the different costumes and dancing to new steps with each song.

Sabrina: What would you tell potential dancers about joining danceability?

I would tell potential dancers to join danceability because it is a great time being with your friends where you can listen and dance to music each week. Plus, you can watch yourself practice in the big mirror!

Patrice: What changes have you seen in Sabrina since joining danceability?
Sabrina has definitely improved her coordination over the years due to dancing.  She has amazed us on her ability to remember the dance steps when performing at the May Annual Performance.  She loves coming and telling everyone she is a dancer.

Patrice: What has been your favorite part of being a part of the danceability family?
I enjoy bringing Sabrina to danceability to sit and relax with the other moms whose daughters are also in the class.  We have become good friends and share any latest news that would benefit us and our children whether it be medical related or disability services related.

Patrice: What would you tell parents/guardians who are thinking about enrolliong their son/daughter at danceability?
We would tell any parents who are thinking about enrolling their child in danceability to do it.  Dance is an integral outlet for our children to express themselves in a way that is liberating of any constraints while enjoying listening to music.  Your child will make new friends in their classmates and volunteers.

BOTH: It is danceability’s 10th year – what do you wish for danceability in the next ten years?
We hope over the next ten years that danceability will continue to be bigger and better.  Every year that has passed since danceability’s inception, we have seen the program sign new dancers and get new volunteers to help our children.  The recital in May is looking more polished every year.  I hope more opportunities will be available for the dancers in the future to showcase their talent outside the studio to promote danceability and themselves

BOTH: What is your favorite danceability memory to date?
There have been so many wonderful memories within my family as well as extended family members.  I would say the one memory that meant a lot to Sabrina as well as my husband and I, was at one recital when Sabrina had a misstep with the routine.  Sabrina felt terrible. Mrs. Christine allowed Sabrina to go back on stage and master the step.  Sabrina felt so terrific,  as did we.  That action by Mrs. Christine said right there that the entire reason for having a dance studio for children and adults with disabilities is to showcase their “ABILITIES.”

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We are so lucky to have Sabrina and her family as a part of our danceability family! Being a strong family atmosphere is exactly what Miss Robin & Miss Christine had in mind when they started danceability back in 2007, and it’s great to see our family continue to grow and become stronger each year. We can’t wait to see what moves Sabrina will bring to the stage in May. One thing is for sure, she will have that big beautiful smile on her face (and so will we)!