Sunshine Ambassadors is more than a dance group

Live at Five at 4November 23, 2016Sunshine Ambassadors spread joy with smiles and dance. See them perform at the Fantasy of Trees Saturday.

FOUNTAIN CITY - The Fantasy of Trees features performers all weekend on the main stage. One group is the Sunshine Ambassadors.

They have been rehearsing for their time on the stage.

"The kids' smiles are always going to have you having a better day no matter what you went through earlier in the day," Melanie O'Dowd said. She is the Executive Director of Sunshine Ambassadors.

It is a dance group  and so much more. The non-profit gives people with disabilities an opportunity to come together and cut loose.

"It's very freeing just to be able to move to the music and kind of let go and have fun," she said.

Von Whitman is not only a dancer but also a leader at the front of the room. He has some favorites.

"The YMCA, the Chicken Dance that we always did, and my favorite one is the Cha Cha Slide," he said.

It isn't a Broadway performance and it's not supposed to be.

"Our motto is that we go for progression rather than perfection," O'Dowd said.

That could mean better confidence, eye contact or communication.

"We work on different goals and as long as that person is having fun and is motivated to kind of branch out and do a little more than they normally would that is what we consider progress," she explained.

Sarah Ellerd is seven years old. Her mother, Kristine Ellerd, has seen amazing progress.

"She did not know here left from her right, she couldn't follow directions, she didn't know how to walk backwards, and since then she has learned all of those things through the Sunshine Ambassadors and she's learned dance and rhythm," she said.

The classes are held in several different cities once a week. Northside Christian Church in Fountain City is just one of the area churches that gives them a free place to practice. Sunshine Ambassadors' next performance is at the Fantasy of Trees.

"We love Fantasy of Trees and the fact that they can get up there and feel special and perform for everybody," O'Dowd said.

Sarah said, "I am so excited."

After the performance this weekend the weekly classes will continue.

Kristine Ellerd said, "It doesn't matter how different you think your child is, they will fit in. They really will."

You can see the Sunshine Ambassadors perform at the Fantasy of Trees Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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