Matthew Aguirre worked at a behavioral center for children with special needs, where he helped his students learn life skills. The 27-year-old from Los Angeles noticed his students, who have autism or Down syndrome, could grasp most of the skills he presented them, but time and time again they struggled tying their shoes.
Editor’s Note-Kathleen Kern is a Physical Education Teacher at Deep Run High School. She is also the force behind bringing the Marathon Dance to Richmond. The Marathon Dance is a 27 hour dance-a-thon the students raise money for. In this interview we will learn more about Mrs. Kern and the dance and what it does for the community as well as the students. There will also be a directory of the non profits the students are dancing for this year at the end of the article. The Deep Run Community has raised more than $1.57 million in the last 9 years, let’s see what this year brings!
Tell us a little about you and your family.
I was born and raised in Upstate NY where I lived for 27 years before heading to Richmond VA. I have two older brothers Michael & Jeffery who still live up north. My younger sister Jill and her husband Jon live here in Glen Allen, VA and my wonderful parents just moved here 6 months ago. I have been married to David Kern for almost 7 years and we have two beautiful children Caleb, 5 & Abigail 3 who keep us very busy.
How did you decide to start the Marathon Dance here and what was that like for you?
It was members of the Class of 2007 that begged and pleaded for me to start a dance at Deep Run after I opened my big mouth and told them about the South High Marathon Dance that I participated in all through high school. I was going on and on about how awesome my high school was for holding this Marathon Dance every year and how lucky I was to be a part of it for 4 years. My intial response to the kids was “no way…. You guys are out of your mind…. There is no way I am taking on that type of project. The begging and pleading continued for weeks…. I finally said I would think about it. I contacted Mr. McCarthy, my art teacher from high school who started the South High dance, and told him that I was considering starting a Marathon Dance at Deep Run. He responded with: “Are you out of your mind” and I replied “Apparently”. The students of Deep Run wouldn’t let it rest and next thing I knew…. I was planning the first DRMD! The whole experience was daunting and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I looked to the people in NY who plan their dance every year for help and advise. It wasn’t until I attended the South High Marathon Dance, which I hadn’t been to in over 10 years, when I realized I was in way over my head. I guess you could say that I had an emotional nervous breakdown at their dance… I began hyperventilating and panicking knowing that our first DRMD was only 2 weeks away and I thought that there was no way I was going to be able to pull it off. That’s when complete strangers from my home town reassured me that everything was going to be okay. Before I left NY that weekend, I was told that 13 members of the SHMD crew were planning to come down to Richmond to help me run the first DRMD and they did….. and they’ve been with me ever since J
Tell us about the dance, I know the students dance for 27 hours and so much goes into making
this happen, tell us a little more.
The student committee first meets in October to prepare for the March event. They meet every Tuesday & Thursday for 1 ½ hours before school and then again for an hour during lunch. ThatWe have over 30 fundraisers that we hold throughout the year to help raise money for the 12 charities the students choose. The dance consists of four different costume themes (this year we have #FlashbackFriday, Neon Glow Stick Rave, Disney vs. Nick, & Media Madness) in which we give out prize buttons to the most creative and fun costumes, games & competitions (frozen t-shirt competition, limbo competition, dance-off), lip-synch battles, yoga to wake you up in the morning, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack breaks, a 21/2 hour sleep break, and of course the amazing finale in which is the culmination of all the hard work and effort that so many put into organizing the event.
This is the 10th year you and your husband are doing this, is it any easier? What have you
learned in this process?
Shockingly I’ve learned that it doesn’t get any easier…. I work just as hard now as I did when I first started. The biggest thing that I take away from the whole experience is that I am definitely making a difference in the lives on not only the organizations that we help, but the lives of so many students who have walked the halls of Deep Run HS
What are some of the things that the students gain and learn in sharing in this?
I have spoken with so many of my former students who have said the dance had a profound impact on their lives. Many of them have changed the major in college to non-profit because of the impact DRMD continues to have on them.
These local agencies all provide such important services, I am sure they are incredibly touched
to have been selected, it must be tough for the students to decide, tell us a little about that.
The process of choosing the charities every year teaches these kids things that they would never learn in a classroom. Life is full of decisions…. Some are easy… many are hard… They learn to work together as a group and make decisions that are very difficult to do. Every organization that applies is beyond worthy of being selected. The students become very emotionally enthralled in the process… there are arguments… kids advocate for certain organizations that are important to them for whatever reason. They learn to stand up in front of their peers and speak from the heart which is very difficult for most of us to do. Every year there are tears, there is excitement, and there is disappointment. But in the end, they all accept the decision and move forward excited to learn more about what each organization provides for the community. Once the 12 organizations are selected, we create teams (one team assigned to each non-profit) and it is their job to visit their organization and learn about the services that they provide and how they are making a difference in our community.
What has been a significant memory for you, I am sure there are many, but any that just stand out?
Well, I have to say that one memory that stands out happened at the very first dance. I was so unbelievably nervous and had a lot of anxiety about everything going smoothly that I completely forgot to eat anything through most of the dance. I felt sick to my stomach and lightheaded when I finally headed to my office to lay down. My sister, who is the DRMD clinic head nurse, came in and basically force feed me food until I felt a little better. And then, a first year teacher named David Kern knocked on my office door and came in with care package of things that he ran out to the store to get in hopes of making me feel better. One of the things in the bag was a large bottle of grapefruit juice that he said I should drink because it would definitely make me feel better. I opened it up in front of him and took a big gulp. One thing that he was not aware of at the time was that I despise grapefruit juice. My sister however was well aware. After he left my office, my sister started hounding me saying “you like that guy”. Very defensive I responded with “no I don’t”. She looked right at me and said “You never drink grapefruit juice… you hate grapefruit juice”. I had no response…. I just stood there and thought… I do hate grapefruit juice…. What was that? Now that first year teacher is my husband!!!
Anything else that you would like to share?
If anyone is interested in donating to this year’s dance they can send a check made payable to Deep Run HS to the attention of Kathleen Kern or they can stop by the dance at any time and leave a donation if they’d like to
Hello, Internet! Cole here. This month, I’ve been faced with a rather lofty challenge: a lack of new material. Normally, I write about the major events of my life and add my own perspective to them; however, nothing remarkable enough to write about has happened this month. As a result, I’ve decided to try something a bit different: writing a short story about bees. This will be a new experience for me, and a bit of a risk on my part for that matter, so constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated.
The wind blew steadily over the field at a low pace as Hiverson worked. He buzzed from one white tulip to the next, drinking the sweet, sugary nectar from each one in turn. He’d considered going to the next field over to gather nectar from the red flowers there, but he’d decided against it. After all, he thought, the Queen put the Hive next to this field for a reason. She likes the tulips’ honey best.
To his right he saw Beeter, his best friend, flying through the air. However, because bees are mostly uniform in shape, size, and marking, he didn’t recognize Beeter at first. Watching while he worked, he eventually managed to identify Beeter by his flight pattern: an acrobatic series of loop-de-loops that more closely resembled a dance than a flight pattern. Since all worker drones derived from the Queen and thus closely resembled each other, they distinguished themselves – and identified each other – through various mannerisms.
Soon enough, their flight paths crossed each other. Beeter flew over Hiverson, doing a small zig-zag turn as he passed – a sort of greeting to Hiverson. Hiverson was always impressed by Beeter’s agility – he was the best at waggle-dances, and his flight path passed higher than those of the other bees because he just enjoyed flying that much. Hiverson wished that he could fly as high as Beeter did.
He was so busy musing over Beeter’s aerial antics that he almost didn’t notice the end of his flight path – that is, until his next flight-hop met with air rather than a blossom. He caught himself just before he hit the ground, propelling himself back into the air. A fall of that height wouldn’t kill him – he knew that – but he was shaken all the same. Pushing his anxiety back, he steered himself towards the hive to turn in his honey reserves.
After emptying his honey-stomach, Hiverson was approached by Barnabee.
“Hello, Barnabee,” Hiverson greeted. At the mention of his name, Barnabee winced. Hiverson had never been sure why, but Barnabee hated everyone’s names and preferred to use pronouns when addressing others.
“H-hello…” Barnabee responded.
“So, what brings you here? Don’t you normally spend time with Charlie?”
“Y-yes, um…” Barnabee stammered. “Ch-charlie’s… sick.”
“Y-yes, the doctors examined him and everything.”
“Will he be alright?”
“W-well, um… he… he has…” Barnabee was stammering even worse than he normally did, and he was beginning to shake.
“H-he has the Sk-skells.”
Hiverson paused, not knowing how to react. “The Skells? Are you serious?”
“Y-yes. He’s in the I-infirmary Section. They’re – they’re treating him as best they can, but-”
Hiverson didn’t know how to respond to this. Charlie had the Skells? No, that wasn’t possible. The disease had been eradicated long ago… hadn’t it? If Charlie had it, though…
“Um, so… w-what should we do?”
Hiverson responded quickly. This was a very serious matter, and all honeybees knew where to turn in case of serious matters. “Come on, Barnabee. We need to see the Queen.”
One of our readers asked Rachel what she thought about coconut sugar. Here’s what she had to say:
What is “5-2-1-0” Slogan for Healthy Kids – Pediatric Partners Of Virginia
Many of you may be familiar with some of the slogans that are being developed to try and help all of us lead healthier lifestyles. One of these is “5-2-1-0.” It means: 5 helpings of fruits and vegetables, no more than 2 hours of screen time, at least 1 hour of activity, and 0 added sugars each and every day! Fruits and vegetables means FRESH fruits and vegetables that are cooked in a healthy manner and not slathered with butter and sugar. Screen time means all kinds of screens including TV, computers, DVDs, and phones. Activity means hard activity…a sport that makes you sweat, breathe hard, and your heart go pitter patter! Zero sugar means zero added sugar…no sodas, no juices, pop tarts… you name it. Drink lots of water and avoid the ever-present high fructose corn syrup as if your life depended on it …. because it does.
Candy can be a little much for many of our kids, special needs or not, so here is a real simple list of things most kids will love and have some fun with. We’ve also come up with some fun ideas for a date night that wont break the bank!
Date: Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Location: The Byrd Theatre, Richmond
This past week, a few “little” things happened that I realized were not so little for us. It got me thinking about how much is taken for granted in the day in- day out life of kids that do it “typically”.
Friendship Circle of Virginia will be hosting, “Evening of Acceptance.” Earlier this year, Friendship Circle of Virginia was proud to sponsor Richmond’s first ever Awareness Day, highlighting people in our community with disabilities and why this discussion is meaningful to all of us. This year we are taking the next step and are moving from awareness to acceptance.
Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) is the most common cyanotic congenital heart lesion found in newborn babies. The defect, which is a major cause of socalled “blue babies,” was first described by pathologists centuries ago.