Lake County dance group headed to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics

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MENTOR, Ohio - The Deepwood Dancers from Lake County are going to the Olympics! The group has been selected to represent the United States in the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. However, they need your help to make their dreams come true.

Each of the eight dancers in the group, Deepwood Dancers, has been diagnosed with some type of developmental or cognitive disability. It’s clear not one of them is letting that hold them back in life.

"I have loved dancing since I was little,” dancer Lani Engel said. “It’s because it makes you feel good."

Dancer Camryn Byrne agreed, “It`s really hard to get into the swing of things, but I just love being in the dance group.”

The group has been performing across Lake County for the past two years to help raise awareness for those with special needs. They range in age from 16 to 61 and practice at least once a week. The team is coached by twin sisters, Trish Pekarcik and Rachel Arnold, who volunteer their time working with the dancers.

“They always show up with a great attitude so it has really been a lot of fun,” Arnold said. Her sister, Trish, added “They’re really dedicated and they always want more practice and more time together.”

Last year the group submitted an audition video and after two months of anxiously waiting, they got the news they were hoping. They’ve been accepted to compete in a team dance performance in Abu Dhabi! In March, more than 7,500 athletes will represent 170 countries in 24 sports at the 2019 Special Olympics. It will be the largest humanitarian sporting event this year. This is also the first time a Special Olympics World Games will be held in the Middle Eastern North Africa region since the movement`s founding more than 50 years ago.

“This is a huge humanitarian event in the middle east for the first time,” said Andrea Byrne, whose daughter Camryn is on the team. “It is truly amazing we have this opportunity to go to raise awareness for kids with disabilities and mental health.”

However, the Deepwood Dancers can't do it without you! Funding must come entirely from private donations. They have now set up a GoFundMe page to help get them there.

“We’re flying across the world on a 21 hour flight,” said Patty Schulz, whose brother, Charlie, dances in the group. “Cost to fly and the hotels are the biggest bulk of the cost but the money raised will also go to things like costumes. The kids will have their own spending money and all that but we’re trying to offset the cost of the travel and the lodging.”

If you would like to help get the Deepwood Dancers to Special Olympics Games, head to their GoFundMe page.

All donations are tax deductible and will be formally acknowledged. Donations should be made payable to: Lake County Special Olympics.

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