Here is one story that will touch your heart as deeply as it has touched ours.
Watch this beautiful video to see how Ari and Drea’s Dream grew through the years because of Pazzaz dancers’ compassion for others and a strong love of dance. Pazazz Performers have let their hearts move their feet and made big things happen for so many.
In 2009, Pazazz Performers owners/directors learned that one of their 3-year-old students, Arianna Dougan (nicknamed Ari), had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Arianna loved to dance, but with her immune system weakened by chemotherapy treatments she was forced to stay home and miss her beloved dance classes. But that didn’t stop her dance teachers, Kacy Voskuil and Emily Edwards of Pazazz Performers of St. Louis, from bringing dance lessons to her at her home.
At the same time they had heard of the work of the Andréa Rizzo Foundation and hoped that they could bring Dréa’s Dream pediatric dance/movement therapy to the hospital where Arianna was being treated so that she could enjoy dance and movement right there in her hospital room.
That was the beginning of Pazazz’s brainstorming with the Andréa Rizzo Foundation and planning fundraisers like dance-a-thons, dance parties and finally, a huge Dréa’s Dream Gala. After raising their first $5000 they worked with foundation president, Susan Rizzo Vincent, to bring Dréa’s Dream to Cardinal Glennon Hospital where Ari was being treated.
From that point on there was no stopping Pazazz Performers! Their efforts to continue to raise funds in many creative ways flourished and the program has expanded from 1 hour per month of pediatric dance therapy to 12 hours per month. All the while, Ari remained their biggest inspiration.
Susan Rizzo Vincent has been deeply touched by this special effort. After meeting Ari several times over the years and especially two years ago when she watched Ari, (only 10 years old at the time) step up onto the stage of the Edison Theater at Washington University during the annual Dréa’s Dream Gala and speak about how Dréa’s Dream was helping her get through her cancer battle and also helping the patients that surrounded her while being treated at Cardinal Glennon in St. Louis, it was clear to Susan and everyone in the audience what propelled Pazazz Performers to go “all out” to bring Ari the gift of dance/movement therapy.
On November 11th of this year, Ari succumbed to neuroblastoma after an eight year battle that she fought with the tenacity of a warrior and with the grace of someone beyond her years, inspiring young and old along the way.
In lieu of flowers, her family generously asked that donations be made to the Andréa Rizzo Foundation so that many more children can experience the benefits of dance/movement therapy as much as Ari did. The outpouring of donations has been overwhelming and is approaching $10,000 to date. Ari would be happy as she lives on through all of the joy this brings to the patients at Cardinal Glennon.