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This Guy Put On A Dance For Sister With Intellectual Disability

Rosa was always left out of social events.

25/10/2017 06:26 SAST | Updated 27/10/2017 11:42 SAST
Dance For Abilities founder Jonathon Hopkirk with a guest from the latest dance event.
DFA

Think back to when you were a teen. Going to the formal or a weekend dance party was always filled with such a mix of emotions -- excitement, anticipation and maybe a bit of nerves. But the events themselves were a given. They are a rite of passage for any kid growing up.

Though that's not always the case for intellectually disabled young people, and indeed all intellectually disabled people in Australia. It's that very problem from which Dance For Abilities was born.

"Rosa is my older sister, and we also have two older brothers. One of the hardest parts of my childhood was seeing Rosa left out of social events," Jonathon Hopkirk, founder of Dance For Abilities told HuffPost Australia.

His sister Rosa has Down Syndrome.

"This really affected me, as I knew I couldn't always be her resolution. I watched her spend time alone in the school playground to the point it just tore my heart out," he said.

"As we grew older and entered adulthood I would see her miss out on nights out and trips away with buddies for NYE and summer getaways. My family started to take her along to dance parties, where I'd DJ, and we realised how much she loved it.

"It also opened our eyes to see the level of warmth and encouragement she received from other people at the events for being there despite her having Down Syndrome," Hopkirk said.

DFA
Hopkirk with his sister Rosa at the latest DFA event.

Witnessing Rosa's joy sparked an idea.

"All of this resonated with me, so I used the emotional fuel built up from our childhood mixed with the desire to change the game for people like Rosa all over the world, and my first-hand experience of seeing what a positive impact being out had on Rosa and everyone else and created Dance For Abilities."

"DFA is free social dance night extravaganza exclusively for people with intellectual disabilities where they are every bit included but also help design and run it," Hopkirk said.

Hopkirks aim was to create social events that mirrored the types of functions and settings we all enjoy and take for granted.

"Social opportunities logistically can be limited for people with intellectual disabilities and funding also presents an issue. There are some incredible groups and individuals doing amazing things week in week out to offer opportunities to this community."

"However, my vision was to host events for people with intellectual disabilities in the same venues that we 'all' like to attend with the same frills that we 'all' take for granted when socializing, these guys deserve that," Hopkirk said.

DFA
Guests have the opportunity to dance and socialise as well as participate in activities like getting their hair and makeup done at DFA events.

"I know Rosa loves all the lights, glitz and the glam of nightclubs however seldom has the opportunity to enjoy them as logistically there are a lot of challenges to enable this. DFA offers this opportunity to people in Rosa's shoes who have the desire for dance parties and social events and helps remove those logistical speed bumps to ensure ease of accessibility.

"It also allows the interaction between those who get involved offering their services and those that have a disability which helps to build a positive familiarity in an often, segregated society."

Dance for Abilities put on an event last month at Sydney's Ravesis hotel.

"The event was incredibly well received by all who attended. It was amazing to have family members and support workers there enjoying the night as well. We had dance competitions with some great prizes, all of which were kindly donated by friends and family.

"There was a candy bar, photo booth, as well a pamper booth with hair and makeup artists. Never have I been in a room filled with so much love and joy. From the night stemmed the hashtag #CountTheSmiles as every photo is just filled with laughter and smiles all round," Hopkirk said.

As for what Hopkirk hopes to achieve with Dance for Abilities? It's simple. Inclusion.

"Our biggest aim is fun and inclusion. We want to offer free social events to the intellectually disabled community every two months. We aim to launch in other cities nationally with the ultimate goal of spreading globally. We want to raise awareness about the positive impact diversity such as intellectual disability has on a community and the world at large," he said.

"It's important for the community to see people from this group enjoying themselves in settings that we all like to attend. DFA is also looking at ways of supporting carers with a 'caring for carers' movement and offering support in things like transitioning to the workplace and digital education for people with intellectual disabilities.

"It is all about inclusion and creating opportunity and I have a strong feeling this will extend beyond the dance floor in due course."