MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Expressing one's self through dance has little–to–no guidelines.
Darby Jones, born with Down syndrome, a heart defect and leukemia, proved that in how she lived her life happily through dance before passing away at the age of 15.
Jones' parents carry on her legacy by creating Darby's Dancers: a national non–profit organization that provides cost–free dance opportunities to kids with special needs.
Mankato now has its own chapter.
“(Val’s) hope was to continue that program on all around and so when I heard about that story I definitely wanted to start my own Dancers Darby’s branch her in Mankato,” dance instructor Mitzi Roberts said.
Every Saturday morning, 13 children, coaches and Roberts prepare for their upcoming shows.
“Really, you don’t have to have a dance background necessarily. You just have to have love and patience and that’s really what it comes down to for these coaches,” Roberts said.
Attend one class and you'll know the kids are having fun.
But, for the class leaders, they feel an exceptional impact.
“It just makes your day, basically just to see them and how happy they all are when they dance,” sophomore Hannah Linnes said.
“I think that they have a super fun time and they’re always smiling and when they’re having a bad day they see you, they run up to you, they hug you. It’s just fun to have those bonds with them,” senior Katie Roberts said.
“Honestly, it is so rewarding for me personally when I teach. Those kids bring me so much joy and happiness every week when I’m done. I just love it so much,” Roberts said.
The surrounding community also sees the value.
The Mankato Area Foundation granted Darby’s Dancers $4,000 through the Women’s Giving Circle.
Ensuring these special kids can continue to participate in performing arts through dance education, like everyone else.