Performers feel a rush of joy – and often an increased sense of confidence – when they step off the stage after expressing their art. ACU theatre students helped Abilenians with special needs experience that same confidence through a one-day performing arts camp called 2dance2dream.
Part of a nonprofit in Austin called Legacy of Hope, 2dance2dream provides children and adults with special needs the opportunity to learn dancing, acting and singing while experiencing a moment in the limelight.
ACU alumnus Julie Lyles Carr ('88) started Legacy of Hope in 2010, and her daughter, McKenna, began 2dance2dream as a way to give people with special needs the same opportunities she had as a dancer.
McKenna was inspired to start the camp by an unhappy incident in a dance class with her younger sister, who has a hearing disability. “That experience really shaped my desire, because dance was the artistic language that I speak,” Carr said. “[I was] figuring out how I could use that to make sure nobody was excluded just because they had something that was different about them.”
Over the last five years, Carr has expanded 2dance2dream to dance studios in the greater Austin and Nashville areas. She brought the camp to ACU this summer thanks to a theatre student who had volunteered at an Austin camp the previous summer.
Daniel Brown, senior musical theatre major from Keller, saw the perfect opportunity to involve local college students as volunteers, using ACU's Fulks Theatre as the venue.
“It’s just really cool to watch these kids be able to express themselves,” Brown said. “This demographic very rarely gets a chance to have this sort of artistic expression.”
Students often come to the camp lacking confidence, but by the end of the camp they accomplish goals and have new skills.
“The most beneficial thing they could walk away with is a newfound understanding that there’s really nothing they can’t do; it’s just that they have to keep trying it,” Carr said.
“They leave having had fun,” Brown said. “They leave feeling like they made something.”
Brown worked with Dawne Meeks, chair of the theatre department, to bring the camp to ACU. Meeks said the camp fits perfectly with the department's mission.
“This is the very thing that we are striving to do within our program – to inform and to inspire our students to be leaders,” Meeks said. “If God has placed those gifts within you, there is an obligation to utilize those gifts.”