Free 2 Be Me

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Daisy Mercado came to us 4 years ago and at that time, she hadn’t spoken a word to any of us in the dance program. Her sister, Karina, would bring her to dance class every Sunday and would let me know that Daisy was talkative and very friendly outside of dance even though she was shy at the studio.

Then one day after a performance in 2013, Karina told me that something had changed in Daisy and that she was more withdrawn than usual and attempts to make her laugh and bring her out of her shell were no longer working. We both felt so sad since Daisy was unable to express to us the cause of her “depression”.

But Karina kept bringing her to class, week after week, and eventually, in the winter of 2014, she began to notice positive changes in Daisy’s disposition. At the same time, the “special friend’ that works one on one with Daisy in our studio, noticed that she would spontaneously start giggling during certain dance exercises. Seeing Daisy laugh filled all of us with joy. We knew that somehow she had turned a corner.

Free2Be me

Well, fast forward to the current spring semester… Lo and behold, Daisy is doing the ballet steps for the first time in the studio since she first began learning them 4 years ago.
Mistakenly I had assumed that after all of this time something had “clicked” in her brain and she was now able to perform simple steps like plie, tendue and passe. But the growth for Daisy wan’t “cognitive”, it was “emotional”. After speaking to her sister, Karina, I found out that Daisy would always practice the steps at home, but until this year, she was just too introverted to show us what she was capable of. During class last Sunday, I stepped into the ballet studio and witnessed Daisy doing tendues and passes without hesitation and my eyes filled with tears. Even writing this now, I am overwhelmed with joyful emotion. To know that after all of these years Daisy finally feels a sense of belonging, and that she knows that she has friends among the dancers, teachers, and special friends at Free 2 Be Me Dance.

These are the moments that I live for! This is why I started Free 2 Be Me Dance in the first place….to give children and adults with Down syndrome a place to feel accepted, special, and most of all, loved. I would also like to express my deep and profound admiration for Karina, who regardless of Daisy’s progress, kept bringing her back week after week and year after year until the miracle happened!!

Daisy will be performing at the local Special Olympics at Cal State Long Beach on Saturday June 13th at 11:30am and 1pm. She will also be performing at the Special Olympic World Games this summer in Los Angeles. Stay posted for more details on seeing Daisy along with the rest of the Free 2 Be Me Dancers perform.

– Colleen Perry

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