On an Extra-Special Event

BallroomDecor

Decorations in the ballroom’s corner

We arrived at the suburban convention center, then followed the red carpet to the upstairs ballroom where we found soft lighting, decorations, and plenty of tables surrounding a large temporary dance floor. At one end and above the floor, on the platform the DJ was checking his equipment from his seat beside the emcee’s podium. The judges’ area was to the left of the platform with forms ready for their completion. The people arriving were nicely dressed … some to compete and others as members of the audience.

The event was a very special sanctioned dance competition with over 30 dancers competing in foxtrot, waltz, rumba, cha cha, salsa, tango, and swing. On this day, the competitors were adults with disabilities – primarily Down Syndrome.

Several weeks ago my wife and I asked the organizer if she needed more volunteers – and she quickly said, “two males to compete” because two contestants needed partners for several dances. I checked our schedule and then accepted … plus my wife volunteered to be on the makeup and hair-styling team …. and the next day I secured a second male.

I only had two short sessions to practice with my partners, but that was enough because the steps were simple and we were not to exceed outside the listed steps. At the competition, organizers placed in heats of 6-7 dancers that allowed plenty of room for both the dancers and the judges on the floor … just like in typical dance competition.

My partners and I competed in four of the seven dances, making the semifinals and finals on three … and even winning third place in one .. but this day was more than that. Yes, it was a competition … yes, there were medals … but everyone one of the dancers were big winners. They loved dressing up, they loved dancing, they encouraged each other, and they appreciated others who smiled, said hello, or shook their hand with a smile … and we support dancers made sure the day was about our partners.

The day was about the contestants, not the dancing pair. The emcee announced each contestant for every dance, but he never mentioned their partner. We were in the program, but after the contestants name. During the awards, contestants received the medals with great joy as the never-mentioned support partner proudly stood by them … and every support partner loved playing second fiddle on a day meant for others.

The story about the organizer and how this group of people came to be is a post in itself, but on this day, my wife and I were very happy that we asked that question several weeks ago about the need for extra help. We smiled a lot on this day and left with a warmer heart, plus I know some tears leaked out of my eyes when the organizer took the time to dance with each contestant.

The next step for me seems logical … that I continue participating as a partner at their weekly gatherings … after all, it’s about them. Through the magic of dance, they see themselves on an elegant ballroom floor … but they probably don’t know or realize what they give to the volunteers.

(Note: It isn’t my place to post a video on the dances, but if the organizer releases them for public viewing, I will share.)

On a Special Teddy

All of us place friends in groups as high school friends, college friends, work friends, neighborhood friends, church friends, and other … well, and not surprisingly, we have dance friends. Ballroom dance has introduced us to many good people, but Teddy is the one who stands out the most for me.

The first time one sees him doing something – you laugh, but with a smile. The more times I see him – I still laugh and smile – but the heart also glows. The more I watch him and now interact with him and learn more about him, I believe he is a special gift for all.

Teddy is a native Cincinnatian who has become a local celebrity, and has even received national exposure. However, through it all, he’s absolutely the same person that he was before the madness started.

From local articles, local television stories, and time with his (and my) favorite baseball team to attending the State of the Union as Speaker Boehner’s guest. From escorting two beauty queens (one on each arm) to speaking engagements and dance exhibitions. From a recent ESPN special segment to a shorter version ABC World News with Diane Sawyer (an America Strong segment), and to the latest as he’s now part of a Topps baseball card collection … and through it all, Teddy remains who he is … an example for everyone.

Teddy Kremer is not a kid, but a 30-year-old man. As a swimmer, ballroom dancer, and equestrian, he’s an athlete. Regardless how one knows him, all who he has touched agree that he is special because he demonstrates what we should be – kind, positive, appreciative, personable, loyal, joyful for life, and other characteristics.

I hope you take the time to watch this 12-minute story created by ESPN, and I have no doubt that Teddy will make you laugh and smile. After all, this video (just like Teddy) makes me laugh and smile, but in the end, I always shed a prideful tear … thus, I look forward to seeing him again on many Thursdays at the dance studio.

On a Joyous Possum

As the holiday season has many running around in a state of crazed madness, it is also a time to find good news – especially in light of the horrific, devastating news about the Connecticut school shooting.

As news organizations deliver us information about global conflicts, U.S. politics, Wall Street, violence, and more, this time of the year also allows these same newsrooms to give us positive stories – stories about the human spirit – stories of sharing and goodness.

I’ve never heard of Possum Trot, Texas – a small, incorporated town near the Louisiana border that is financially poor – but through love, sacrifice, patience, commitment, and genuineness, the members of this community demonstrate their huge heart of gold that serves a role model for humanity.

Follow the link to watch and see a proud side of humanity.

On a Wimpy Today

If you are a baby boomer like I, you probably associate Wimpy as a friend of Popeye the Sailor. Yep, that’s J. Wellington Wimpy to we cartoon enthusiasts.

Created by EC Segar for the original Popeye comic strip, the soft-spoken, kind, intelligent Wimpy was Popeye’s friend. When Fleischer Studios animated Popeye, Wimpy took a less prominent role.

Hamburgers are Wimpy’s favorite meal, and we know he can continuously eat them! Wimpy was also cheap, even a  moocher, thus known for his famous line, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Wimpy also inspired the name for a fast food restaurant in London (1954). The chain has been bought and sold several times, but we can find Wimpy’s today in over 20 countries. However, this story centers around Wimpy’s in South Africa.

The chain had an ad campaign promoting that it had Braille menus, but a promotion’s effort took a unique turn – they used sesame seeds to place Braille messages on 15 hamburger buns, and then served the hamburger to 15 blind individuals.

Whether a sincere small gesture or intentionally exploitive, this is a feel-good video. Have a good rest of the weekend.

On an Angel’s Wings

Do you remember Clarence Odbody? I imagine the last name may throw you off, but he was an Angel Second Class who hadn’t yet earned his wings, thus assigned as the guardian angel to George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I like good stories about good people doing good things for others – and I know that it’s been too long since I’ve featured a post simply about a good deed. After all, are some of the great words about being human include kindness, courage, love, sharing, generosity, humility, and respect?

Here’s a story about Woody Davis, seemingly a regular person who believes in a life of helping others – and one who says he feels blessed to be dying slowly. Oh no, it’s not a tearful story, but a joyous one of an ordinary person who has lived a life of giving – and worth your 3 minutes to see.

Note: After clicking the video, click again to watch on YouTube in a new window, and then I hope you return to comment. If you have a problem below, click here to watch on YouTube.

On Thanks for a Giving Joshua

After seeing this story about Joshua Williams a few months ago on the NBC Nightly News, I knew that I had to feature him in a post. With Thanksgiving upon us, now is time to feature his cause and action.

When he was four, his grandmother gave him $20, but he gave it away to someone homeless. Less than a year later, he wanted to do something to feed hungry children. Shortly thereafter, Joshua’s Heart, a foundation focusing on hunger relief was born. Joshua is now nine years old, and the foundation is going strong.

Amazingly, Joshua discovered something early in life that many never figure out – the importance of caring for and helping others. Whether you see it in the spirit of religion or not, he is an example and the spirit of what humans can do for one another. In today’s bitter, partisan times in our in-your-face culture, Joshua Williams is a beacon of goodness.

Besides the foundation’s video below, here is a link to the foundation and one to the NBC News story I saw. During this Thanksgiving holiday, I thank Joshua for being a model of giving.