DanceOn Performs For The Kids Of Uvalde

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“We hear, unfortunately hear about these way too often and you see it on the news. You read about it, and then we can kind of move on with our lives. But to actually be there and, and feel that sense of loss really, really does change you and it changes your perspective on, on these things that we hear about way too often,” said Jana Gabrione, a DanceOn mother.

The Trip

Jana Gabrione recently took a trip to Uvalde, Texas with her 10-year-old daughter, Izzy. Izzy, a dancer, had been invited there along with eight other members of Naperville based nonprofit DanceOn to perform for a community-rebuilding event. The trip took place September 23 and 24, just four months after the city went through one of the deadliest school shootings in our nation’s history.

The DanceOn performers joined members of the Joffrey Ballet to dance for children in the Uvalde community, after receiving a special invite.

“So we were asked by the head of Joffrey’s youth ballet program, Jo Matos, who is just a force of nature, to respond to the senseless tragedy that occurred there a few months ago with the loss of life from the students. She had asked us to kind of put together a younger team, one with kids that could potentially communicate better with the children that we were gonna perform for,” said Greg Long, founder of DanceOn

What Did The Group Do?

While in Uvalde, the group performed for three different schools and a group at the El Progreso Memorial Library. They weren’t sure exactly what to expect from their audience.

“You don’t know how they’re gonna react and obviously you think a kindergartner’s gonna react differently than a fifth and sixth grader. And as we were watching the performance, I know all of us parents in the back were thinking, many of the students who were watching this piece were in those classrooms on that tragic day. And they were just you know, woo-hooing and high fiving and so excited to watch the piece and then even got to come up on stage after and dance with our kids. They just loved that part of it. It was really something special,” said Gabrione.

A Creative Touch

While there, the group also got the chance to add their own creative touch to a mural of remembrance.

“Two of our parents happened to be just walking through the town to kind of just get a sense for it and came upon muralists working on a new design on one of the buildings. That was going to represent all of the children and adults that were affected. And they allowed us to come back and actually add a few brush strokes to this mural,” said Long.

The outpouring of kindness they received upon their arrival was unexpected, and unforgettable.

Special Gifts

“We weren’t going there expecting anything in return. We were going there to give them our gift and everything from the teddy bear, kids giving our kids bracelets they had made, the town paid for our entire group of 22 to attend their high school football game that Friday,” said Gabrione.

Before the group left Uvalde, they returned the favor, with some members of the crew staying up until 1 a.m. making over 100 specialized bracelets from quickly bought supplies to hand out.

“The bracelets had words like, you know, Uvalde strong, or love, or you know, whatever the words that were used by the kids. I think that was I wanna say it was not so much as a gift as it was of, I’m connected to you now, we are in this together,” said Long.

Watching her daughter, who is the same age as some of the victims, take part in making those connections, left a lasting impact on Jana.

“To our kids up there, dancing was really something that I’ll never forget. They were craving that, that support, and I love the way Greg says it the best when he says, we were there to give them a hug via dance,” said Gabrione.

Long says that DanceOn isn’t done helping. He wants to continue to help local business, dance studios, and libraries in the Uvalde community.

Naperville News 17’s Anthony Yench reports.

photo courtesy: Greg Long 

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