I still remember the first day I walked into the danceability studio to become a volunteer. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous. While I was familiar with the special needs community, I never had the chance to work so closely with individuals with special needs. As I walked through the doors, though, I immediately felt at ease. The dancers were full of smiles and the other volunteers were friendly and made me feel like I fit right in. The instructor, Miss Robin, walked me through everything during class, and after just a few minutes, I knew I made the right decision to become a volunteer.
That was back in 2009, and now, as I continue to come back and have gotten even more involved at danceability (I’m the current Board Chair), people often ask me what volunteering entails. Or, really more accurately, I tell anyone who will listen that they should become a volunteer and then they ask me what volunteering entails.
In short, volunteers assist a dancer, one-on-one in class, once a week from September – May (you can also volunteer for our six week summer program, too). But, for anyone who has heard me talk about danceability, they know there is no “short” of it.
Volunteers are helpers. Once a week, for 45 minutes, volunteers help their dancers master steps and combinations. It may be as simple as helping them up off the floor, or helping them put on their dance shoes. Volunteers may help their dancers point their toes, or grab their hand and dance around the room. Volunteers help instructors set up for class, put away props and keep class and their dancers moving.
Volunteers are friends. Dancers can’t wait to see their volunteers each week (and sometimes even get a little upset when their volunteer has to miss a week, but don’t worry they forgive you fast). They can’t wait to tell their volunteer what they did during the week and ask them what they’ve been up to. Monday – Thursday nights our waiting room is full of chatter between our volunteers, dancers and their families. Volunteers have become close friends with each other, and some dancers and volunteers have even hung out outside of class, for holidays and other special occasions.
Volunteers are cheerleaders (who can wear whatever kind of uniform makes them comfortable). Many of our dancers just need a little encouragement to point their toes or shake their arms. They need a high five or a “woo hoo” after they master that step or combination. Volunteers provide that cheer to their dancer.
Volunteers are dancers (even if they don’t want to admit it, or don’t think they are any good). Dance experience is not a requirement of becoming a volunteer, so don’t think you can’t get involved if you never put a pair of dance shoes on before. You will soon find yourself counting to eight, and tapping along to songs you hear on the radio. It’s contagious!
Volunteers are a shoulder to lean on. Some of our dancers have more limited mobility so volunteers help them move around, or feel comfortable standing up. They are there to help dancers when they struggle and encourage them that they can do it.
Volunteers are performers. Every May, volunteers perform right beside their dancers onstage during our Annual Performances. Volunteers can even take part in a special volunteers only dance and have their moment to shine onstage if they want, too!
Sometimes, like anything, being a volunteer is a little challenging. Things don’t always go as planned in class, but I think that’s what makes it even more rewarding. Especially when it comes to our end of the year Annual Performances. That’s a day you will never forget if you volunteer. I haven’t found too many things that top it. The pride you feel, the joy, it’s something I encourage everyone to experience at least once.
If you are looking for a way to give back in the community, I hope you will consider danceability. We are always in need of volunteers (especially as we continue to grow and bring more dancers in). We can even get you started next week if you think it’s a good fit. And, if you still aren’t sure, please come check out one of our classes as an observer to see what goes on during a class.
When I googled volunteer opportunities in Buffalo back in 2009, I never knew how much one search would change my life. I can’t imagine not going to the studio each week to dance with our dancers! It’s been an opportunity that has fulfilled my life more than I can begin to describe. It can do the same for you – it’s just a phone call away (716-651-0094).
– Krystal Sondel
danceability Board Chairman