Located in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, the Special Angels Dance Company lights up the stage at every performance. The company is a group of talented, special needs dancers with all different diagnoses, but they share one thing: their love of dance.
Special Angels Dance Company is part of a larger organization called Special Angels Recreation. The program as a whole has over 100 kids playing year round sports, including flag football, soccer, basketball, and baseball, dance, and cheerleading.
The president, Deborah Wertalik, started the program when her son, Tyler, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4. Tyler is 16 now, and Special Angels Recreation has been going strong for 12 years.
“We couldn’t find anything for him to participate in, and we didn’t want him to sit around on a computer all day. We wanted him to have things to do, but we couldn’t find anything out there for kids like Tyler with special needs. So we decided to stand up and make a difference by starting this program.”
As the recreational program grew, so did the demand for a dance team. The Special Angels Dance Company includes tap, hip hop, and jazz. The team is made up of 2 volunteer teachers and 12 dancers who perform at several competitions a year, and a recital.
Deborah says, “I think the best part of Special Angels Dance Company is watching our kids smile and feel proud of themselves while lighting up the stage.”
These dancers do more than just light up the stage! Community service plays a big role in being part of the team. “We want to teach the kids that although they may have different needs, they are still capable of giving back. There is no limit to what our kids are capable of!”
If you have an interest in starting a recreational program for kids with special needs, Deborah hopes that the Special Angels Dance Company will inspire you to do so. She says, “It will be the greatest and most fulfilling thing that you ever do!”
Deborah says the best part of Special Angels is giving the kids the opportunity to perform and compete, something that many of the kids never thought they would have the chance to do.
“The kids are very popular and very well received. They always get a standing ovation, and most times there is not a dry eye in the audience. They are truly inspirational to everyone that sees them.”