For the last year, members of Special Populations have learned to cut the rug with the help of some nimble-footed volunteers.
Monday, at the Lake Kennedy Center, Special Pops members and their friends from USA Dance applied what they learned at a special celebration.
There, they performed in front of the mayor, fellow Special Pops members and local pageant winners, and put on a great show, bringing a sunny feeling to a dreary day outside.
Mr. Florida Kahlil DeWeever, left, and Randy dance to the song “Shout” at the Special Populations celebration Monday at the Lake Kennedy Center.
Perhaps most impressed was Carol Davis, Special Populations dance coach and part of the USA Dance special needs program, who saw a year of hard work pay off on the dance floor.
"We focus on the abilities, not the disabilities. They're learning to follow patterns and some have difficulty in speech and moving," Davis said. "Yet, they're able to follow a pattern in ballroom dance."
Davis and her group worked with more than 100 students, all of whom have some sort of disability. Through this program, Davis said their confidence and self-esteem (as well as hers) go through the roof.
"They love the music and they love to dance and it's been a wonderful job. If I have a bad Monday they greet me at the door with their smiles and I walk out and my feet don't touch the ground," Davis said.
Among the highlights was Mayor John Sullivan declaring, via proclamation, July 1 to be Special Populations USA Dance Day in Cape Coral. He then got to watch as Davis and several of her students do the meringue to the glee of onlookers and the mayor.
"It's important to recognize the work these people are doing. It gives the Special Pops people confidence and we have a great program here in Cape Coral and perhaps the best in the country," Sullivan said. "I thought it was fantastic watching them do things I can't do myself."
The dancers also waltzed and performed other dances, but there was also time for Special Pops to hit the floor on their own with the Electric Slide and the YMCA dance.
One Special Pops member in particular, Jeff, showed no fear as he asked the tiara-headed beauty queens for a dance. One by one he asked them all, and all were more than willing to oblige. And they all had fun.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to dance with Special Pops. I actually do Zumba with four of them and we have a blast," said Donaji Hicks of Cape Coral, the current Mrs. Florida. "Most of them have the rhythm and it allows them to express themselves in a way some can't verbally."
But with all that, everyone knew who the real stars were on this day.
"What's best is they have fun and they should be introduced to dance," instructor James Sonsalia said. "Any time you have enjoyment in life, what more can you ask for."