ST. CHARLES – Team Polaris, a club at St. Charles North High School, aims to promote social awareness and support for individuals with special needs in the school and the community.
Team Polaris and St. Charles North will host “Project Dance Leap” from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday in the main gymnasium at St. Charles North High School. The four-hour dance party promotes awareness and raises funds for local organizations that provide services for individuals with special needs.
Team Polaris took over hosting Project Dance 10 years ago. Prior to that, the school's Student Council had put on the event.
Project Dance carries a different theme each year. This year's event happens to fall on Leap Day, thus the name "Project Dance Leap."
"We saw it as an opportunity to create a positive environment through dancing and to raise money for individuals with special needs within the community," said Colleen Backer, co-advisor of Team Polaris with Tanis Simoncelli.
Baker is a special education teacher at St. Charles North and Simoncelli is the instructional technology specialist at the school. Project Dance attracts hundreds of people each year.
"We've gone from having 150 people attend to upwards of 500 people," Simoncelli said. "We're hoping to have a big crowd this year."
Project Dance is an extension of Team Polaris' mission to promote social awareness and support for individuals with special needs.
"We have really tried to extend and develop Project Dance as an event to help promote that awareness and also fundraise so we can as Team Polaris give back to the community and a variety of organizations that support individuals with special needs within our community," Backer said.
The entire community is invited to the event and accommodations are made for individuals with physical and sensory needs. For example, the music is aimed towards the floor to help with sensory overload. The venue and dance floor are also wheelchair accessible.
In addition, a “chill room” will be available for individuals who need a break from being overstimulated.
"We really try to make this entire event a safe and comfortable environment for all different types of individuals," Backer said.
Individuals with special needs will be paired up with a buddy from 2 to 4 p.m. to share dance time and fun together.
"We have individuals from Marklund participate with us," Simoncelli said. "Colleen works with students here at St. Charles North to provide buddies for these kids that are coming in and even some adults that come in. We buddy them up for a couple of hours so that way they are not feeling like they are alone. They are making a friend for a day or for a lifetime."
St. Charles North High School is located at 255 Red Gate Road, St. Charles. Tickets are $5 per person or $15 for families of three or more. All community members are welcome to attend.