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Giving in steps

August 2011

eddington1 Allie Edgington and Devin Dawson

Allie Edgington is a BYU student with a story that has a way of dancing deeply into your heart. It has mine.

When I met the dance education major, Allie told me about her twin sisters and brother who were all born with a disability called Fragile X Syndrome, the most common cause of inherited mental impairment. She also said that her siblings had given her many opportunities to work with disabled people. Over time, these experiences had helped her develop confidence that she could make a difference in their lives.

During her childhood and teenage years, Allie also became aware of the positive influence that the Special Olympics had on her older brother. On the other hand, she felt disappointment that her 17-year-old twin sisters had been too afraid to join a team or try a competition.

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That was about to change.

During her junior year, Allie had an idea. She would organize a Special Olympics dance competition and invite her sisters to participate.

The idea appealed to BYU's Office of Research and Creative Activities, which awarded Allie a $1,500 mentored learning grant.

Allie hit the dance floor running. She recruited her teammates on the Ballroom Dance Company. She found a willing partner in Special Olympics Utah. And, best of all, her twin sisters agreed to participate.

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Week after week for eight weeks, participants and their BYU partner/mentors assembled on campus to learn the waltz and cha-cha. Then, on Aug. 8, 2009, in front of judges and hundreds of family members and friends, it was time to perform in the BYU Summer Dancesport Challenge — an actual ballroom competition.

As Allie described it, "When the athletes walked onto the floor, the atmosphere in the ballroom changed. It was such a thrill to hear the cheers and applause and to see the smiles of the Special Olympics athletes as they came in with their BYU student partners. At that point, the focus wasn't on winning trophies but on the joy of accomplishment."

For Allie, one of her greatest accomplishments was getting her sisters involved with Special Olympics through ballroom dancing. "They had a great experience," Allie said. "My sisters made many new friends."

As it turns out, that was just the first dance on Allie's program. This summer she organized another Special Olympics ballroom competition. And she's dreaming even bigger now.

"I would like to expand my ballroom program throughout the state of Utah," she said. "I'd like to see it become part of the national Special Olympics program someday."

Allie is also creating an instructional video that will help other teachers train their athletes.

Step by step, Allie Edgington is enriching an ever-expanding universe of lives. She's certainly an inspiration to me. Dance on, Allie.