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PCC instructor organizes fund-raiser that features wheelchair dancing
Photos and Story by Janis Nichols
The Portland waterfront has welcomed millions of people over the years, but the event scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20 is the first of its kind and a Portland Community College instructor is hoping it will change the way Portlanders view a specific community.
The non-profit Wheelchair Dancers Organization was founded in San Diego in 2008 by Beverly Weurding, a dancer until she was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Her daughter, Michelle Huss, is a biology instructor at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus. Huss is organizing the August event on the East Esplanade of the Portland Waterfront.
The first-of-its-kind event starts at 6:30 p.m. with a “groovy costume” 5K and 10K run fund raiser. The group anticipates more than 50 amputees from groups including the Challenged Athletes Foundation and Oregon Spinal Cord Injury Connection will join the run along with more than 200 Portland runners who “might show up in 70’s attire.” Moms with children in strollers are welcomed to join the first wave of both the 5K and 10K runs.
The wheelchair dancers will perform at 7:30 pm followed by dance lessons for all who are interested. Food vendors include Portland Kettle and Hoplandia Beer. A coloring booth and face painting will also be available.
“I didn’t know how to help my mother overcome the isolation and social barriers that exist in our society, but she showed me how dancing can be shared and experienced by everyone, with or without limitations,” said Huss.
Wheelchair Dancers has offered more than 700 free wheelchair dance classes, engaging more than 300 wheelchair users of all ages in ballroom, Latin, contemporary and hip hop dance programs. The organization holds the World’s Record for the largest number of wheelchair dances in a “flash mob dance” and is now providing hip hop classes to youth in San Diego Public Schools.
“We know that approximately 27 percent of Portland’s population qualifies as disabled,” Huss said. “And approximately 1,300 disabled students attend PCC.”
“This organization is changing lives through dance in San Diego and we believe it can create change in Portland as well.”
The PCC community can volunteer for the event, or for more information email email@example.com.