Our History & Mission
It all started with one tennis clinic hosted by the Abilities Tennis Association of NC (ATA).
The free clinic hosted by the non-profit organization attracted athletes of all ages with two things in common: an intellectual disability and a love for the sport of tennis. The clinic also had volunteer coaches who buddied up with the athletes; this one-on-one interaction not only helped improve their tennis skills but also created friendships and irreplaceable bonds between the athletes and their coaches. Before this life-changing day, I had never interacted with anyone with an intellectual disability, which made me apprehensive. How do I communicate with them? What if I do something wrong? I wondered to myself. Little did I know that the moment I would walk onto that court, my life would be changed forever. I was surrounded by a community full of love and endless support where you were treated like family regardless of your identity or ability. You could never even imagine defining these athletes as having “disabilities” because the abilities that they have are truly astounding, both on and off the court. I realized this: if we gave individuals with special needs the proper resources and simply believed in them, they would be more than capable of going out and achieving amazing things in the world. Just having faith and believing in a person’s potential goes a long way in enabling them to be successful but we as a society are unfortunately still working towards inclusion and acceptance for all.
This experience allowed me to discover my passion for the special needs community as well as the lack of opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, especially in fine arts education. Being a dancer my entire life, I wanted to utilize my years of training and incorporate it into my newfound love for the special needs population. I quickly came to realize there were no special needs-specific dance classes in the area that I could volunteer at, which prompted me to decide to start my own organization in 2015, at the age of 16. After being able to see the tremendous physical, emotional, and social benefits of a program like Abilities Tennis for both the athletes and their families, I hoped that implementing a similar program for those interested in dance would have similar or even better results.
I felt in my heart that this was my calling. And that is how Abilities Dance was born.
Our sole mission is to provide dance classes to those in the community who have intellectual disabilities and help foster a love for dance within each individual. And because we are advocating for accessible fine arts education for ALL, our classes are 100% free. You just can’t put a price on happiness.
-Caroline Le, founder of Abilities Dance