By Bridget Brigitte McDonald, PhD
The RSF Rotary Club recently welcomed Beverly Weurding and William Valencia, the co-founders of Wheelchair Dancers. Accompanied by her partner in life Bruce Race, Weurding said that when she set out to make dancing possible for anyone in a wheelchair, she was frustrated to find only one place in the U.S. that certifies wheelchair dance instructors. When she learned that prize-winning dancer William Valencia was as inspired as she was to make this dream a reality for those in wheelchairs everywhere, they made a commitment to found Wheelchair Dancers.
Since its beginning just a few years ago, the dancers have already taught over 85 participants. Classes are free and last for about eight weeks. Currently sponsored in part by the Christopher Reeves Foundation, as well as by Sharp Healthcare, the Wheelchair Dancers would love to continue to grow and expand. Weurding showed excerpts from a documentary made by Sharp Healthcare based on more than 100 hours of footage. Wheelchair dancers may either dance with a partner who is on foot, or with a partner in a wheelchair.
About 15 years ago, Wanda Chenier and her family were in a head-on car accident, they rolled four times. Her son had 68 stitches and she has been in a wheelchair ever since. The RSF Rotary Club luncheon was her debut performance in public, and her effortless and graceful dance moves on the floor with instructor Valencia had the club in tears, and then standing up in an ovation of admiration. In the words of William Valencia: “Joy comes from dancing naturally.” Please visit: WheelChairDancers.org.