Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dancers Disabled in Body Only; Satilla Center's Inaugural Event Has Spirits Soaring among the Participants and Their Parents

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dancers Disabled in Body Only; Satilla Center's Inaugural Event Has Spirits Soaring among the Participants and Their Parents

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson, The Times-Union

WAYCROSS -- Ware County High School celebrated its homecoming Friday night but the big dance was across town.

It was for adults who never went to a senior prom or a homecoming dance.

There were about 30 of them, all disabled in varying ways and degrees, who gathered at St. Joseph's Catholic Church for the Satilla Advocacy Resource Center's first dance for the disabled.

"This is the first time a dance or social event has been held outside a sheltered, segregated area," said Deirdre O'Brien, president of the all-volunteer Satilla ARC.

If they had been sheltered, most didn't show it.

Michael Van Liempd, for example, took the dance floor as soon as he hit the door. He switched partners often and the type of music didn't seem to matter.

His niece, Sherri Spivey, came to the dance a little late and stood watching with tears in her eyes.

She had never seen her uncle that way.

"I think he's having a fabulous time. It's adorable. I'm glad he has this opportunity," she said.

Van Liempd, who was born with Down syndrome, has lived for nearly 11 years with his sister, Rita Spivey, who is Sherri Spivey's mother.

"He likes to stay on the go," Rita Spivey said. "He doesn't like to work. He likes to play and have a good time."

Apparently, many of the ARC's charges share the love of a good time.

Belted into a wheelchair, Michael Johnson, was unable to shake a leg but, when rolled onto the dance floor, he moved to the music as women danced around him.

When a conga line formed, an ARC volunteer wheeled Johnson around the room with the dancers, spinning him in circles a couple of times as he threw his head back in delight.

"I think this is great," his mother, Frances Johnson, said. "This is our first party."

Johnson wasn't there just for the dance. …

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