This uplifting program is getting young hospital patients in California to boogie down.
Kids in hospitals across the state are getting free dance lessons, thanks to the nonprofit organization Dancin Power. Instructors with the Oakland, Calif.-based group adapt their lessons to accommodate kids’ physical and emotional restrictions. That way, everyone is able to dance.
Dancin Power got started in 2006 and has gotten special attention recently, after a video about the organization went viral.
The lessons ― in Hula, traditional Brazilian dance, hip hop and other forms of dance ― are designed to make the children’s days a little brighter.
“For that moment, the patients and their families are able to interact with one another in a non-medical way,” Vania Deonizio, the group’s founder and president, told The Huffington Post in an email. “They are laughing, learning something new, having a good time, feeling happy together!”
The instructors first check in with the hospital to see which patients they’re working with and what restrictions they have. Then the instructors work with the youngsters in groups or one-on-one.
If necessary, classes are held in patients’ hospital rooms ― with special precautions taken to avoid jeopardizing the kids’ sometimes precarious health.
“Sometimes we have kids that are undergoing chemo and have very low immune system and have to be in isolated areas,” Deonizio told HuffPost. “In those cases our Dancin Power teachers then have to wear masks, gowns, gloves to go teach those kids at their bedside.”
Deonizio said it was important to involve the patients’ loved ones as well as the kids themselves.
“We believe when a child is sick, it truly affects the entire family,” she told HuffPost. “By having the whole family, and at times their doctors and nurses too participating, we create community, a very supportive and fun one.”
The classes have a big impact on the kids’ outlook, Deonizio said. The children may be a bit uncertain at the start, she said, but once they get involved “the shyness goes away, and laughter and joy come in.”
Dr. Mai Ngo of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital has seen the program in action. She told HuffPost in an email that it is “one of the most feel-good services offered to patients” ― and that it’s especially helpful to kids recovering from severe injuries.
“Getting them out of bed and into a wheelchair to move their bodies in Dancin Power helps prevent de-conditioning, so their muscles do not get even weaker from immobility,” she explained. “It improves their mood and builds their confidence in the control they have of their own bodies in medical situations when they feel completely out of control.”
And the patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program.
“Every time I teach I learn something new from my students/patients,” Deonizio told HuffPost. “[A] few of the most important lessons I take every time I teach is the reminder of being completely present, appreciate the moment, have gratitude and never give up.”
To learn more about Dancin Power, visit their website here.