Cammie, a 17-year-old athlete in CHD’s All In: Barrier Free Recreation’s adaptive dance program, likes to dance to country music in her wheelchair—but she also has a soft spot for Justin Bieber, along with Bobby Bones and the Raging Idiots.
This senior at Chicopee Comprehensive has been dancing in this program since she was five years old. “It’s a lot of fun here—I have a great time,” Cammie said during a break at a recent dance session at the Ohana School of Performing Arts in Chicopee. “I get to learn new dances, and they teach me great moves—spins, kicks—a lot of different stuff,” she added.
Cammie has cerebral palsy and is legally blind, but she doesn’t let that stop her from cutting loose in the dance studio! She demonstrated a “shimmy” move with her arms and then a spin—she proceeded to execute two 360-degree turns in her wheelchair. Her twin brother, who also has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, is in All In’s dance program as well, “but he’s too shy to be interviewed,” she said with a laugh.
All In Outreach Coordinator and Dance Instructor Danielle Bachand said her program modifies typical dance moves, depending on the dancer, to make choreography feasible for dancers with different abilities. “Maybe it’s using an arm instead of a leg,” she said. “The person still does the same moves as all the other dancers.”
Samantha, Cammie’s mom, said her daughter has gained a wider range of motion from participating in the dance class. “It has also helped her confidence over the years,” she said. “Cammie has gained some great friends here. It has always felt like a family.”
Cammie, when asked what she would say to someone in a wheelchair who might be self-conscious about joining this kind of dance program, replied, “I’d tell that person that It’s OK to be different.”
All In’s adaptive dance program is tailored to meet the individual needs of people ages 4 to 22, and participates in a variety of performances throughout the year. All children and young adults can participate regardless of ability.