Excitement took over Ashley Midgley as she waited in line to get one of her idols’ autograph at Studio A in Pointe Claire.
Along with 22 other students attending the first Dance for a Cause benefit workshop on March 13, Ashley waited to learn a hip-hop routine choreographed by So You Think You Can Dance Canada runner-up Jayme Rae Dailey, and her twin sister Jenny Dailey.
As the music started the girls gathered into three lines; Ashley was in the front. Jayme Rae, fresh off her third place finish in last season’s TV competition, was standing so close she could almost touch her.
Dressed in a black Jayme Rae t-shirt, Ashley danced along on the wooden dance floor. Enthusiastic while learning the steps to the routine, she couldn’t help but blurt out how “awesome” and “perfect” everything was with a delirious smile planted squarely on her face. The choreography was challenging but Jayme Rae engaged and encouraged the girls dancing around the open space, with parents and friends cheering along the perimeter.
Ashley, however, is not like the other girls. Although the nine-year-old loves to collect stickers, and is very passionate about dance, she stands apart from the crowd. Ashley suffers from cystic fibrosis. Ashley’s mother, watching her daughter twirl alongside other girls her age, saw what everyone else at in the dance room seemed to have felt: Ashley doesn’t let her disease slow her down.
“She’s high energy, you wouldn’t know she was sick,” said Ashley’s mother, Heather Rock. “She’s done tap, she’s done jazz, but hip hop is her big thing.”
Born weighing three pounds and four ounces, Ashley was diagnosed with failure to thrive. She was only five pounds at two months old, and was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 2000. Ashley is required to take 35 to 40 pills a day, and is presently doing two hours of physiotherapy, daily. The medication helps keep her lungs free of infection and congestion. When she is doing well, Ashley only has to visit the hospital every three months. Since November she has had several visits, but has made sure not to neglect her dance steps.
Ashley is in grade 4 at Forest Hill Sr. in St Lazare. She is in control of taking her medication when she is at school, and knows what will happen if she doesn’t. Rock said she and her husband are honest with Ashley so she will always have a clear understanding of her body, and never feel ashamed about her condition.
“She’s an inspiration to us” said Rock, looking on at her daughter from the sidelines. “She can do anything she sets her mind to.”
After the lesson, two prizes were awarded for the students Jayme Rae thought had shown the best effort. Ashley received the prize from her idol, and in return gave the So You Think You Can Dance contestant flowers, to thank her and her sister for volunteering to teach the workshops. Shyly saying she enjoyed the routine, Ashley sat down to have McDonalds while her mother joined the second workshop.
The benefit was organized by Megan Foster and Sarah Steben, who teach at Studio A and know Ashley from the studio, with six other Concordia students for their Community Recreation Programming class.
“It really touched me a lot when they approached me” said Rock, about the organizers.
The group wanted to make the most out of the workshops, and felt it would be best to donate the money for cystic fibrosis research. They raised over $1,200 from the two workshops. Their goal was to have 20 students for each workshop, but to their surprise 89 students showed up in total.
“It exceeded our expectations greatly. It was unbelievable the feeling that we raised that much,” adds Shannon Sherrett, one of the organizers.
Sherrett said seeing the look on Ashley’s face was a reward all on its own. She felt, overall, that it was a successful experience.