Dance-a-thon to raise much needed funds

Gearing up for their fund-raising dance-a-thon, are from left front, Cassidy Bailey, 12, social entrepreneur Rashieda Pandy, and auxiliary social worker at the Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled (CTAPD), Fatima Martin (who is also Ms Pandys mother). Back, from left, are, Esmerelda Bailey, CTAPD CEO, Wilfred Diedricks, and occupational therapy students Ghodeejah Alexander and Ashley Kay-Hards.

You can help a 12-year-old girl fulfil her dream of competing in an international wheelchair dancing competition in the Netherlands next year by hitting the dance floor yourself.

Cassidy Bailey, from Primrose Park, and her partner, Thabiso Biyela, 16, will be taking part in the Hollands Dans Spektakel in Cuijk, in April next year, competing in the amateur section of the Wheelchair Dancing World Cup.

The pair have to pay for their own travel and accommodation, and although enough money has been raised for Cassidy’s ticket, they still need to raise money for her mother and carer, Esmerelda Bailey, as well as for Thabiso.

Each would need about R30 000 to make the trip.

Cassidy and Thabiso have been performing all over Cape Town, and it was Cassidy’s talent that caught the eye of social entrepreneur, Rashieda Pandy, who has organised a dance-a-thon at the Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled (CTAPD), in Bridgetown, this Saturday November 26.

Ms Pandy is encouraging everybody to be part of this four-hour dance spectacular (each session will be an hour long), and to get their friends and family to sponsor their participation in it.

The day promises to be a fun-filled affair and is open to everybody. It is hoped the money raised will be enough to cover at least the travel needs of either Ms Bailey or Thabiso.

Cassidy has been doing wheelchair ballroom dancing for four years now, and she and Thabiso have been partners for two of those years. She is part of the Chaeli Sports and Recreation Club.

Cassidy was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Spina bifida is a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. Hydrocephalus is a condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain.

Although people born with her condition generally have a limited lifespan, Cassidy, with her vibrant and bubbly personality, is living hers to the full. She has big dreams, which include being the “best dancer in the universe”.

When asked what attracted her to dance, Cassidy says: “I just love the energy on the dance floor. I saw wheelchair Latin and ballroom dance on television and I wanted to do it. With all our hard work and determination, I can see myself at the top.” Apart from Latin and ballroom, she also does belly dancing and horse riding once a week, and she wants to join a basketball team soon.

Ms Bailey said she had learnt a lot because of Cassidy’s disability. “When she was born, I thought she was stillborn, because they didn’t put her on my chest. I had two miscarriages after my son, Andrew, was born, and I thank God that we have Cassidy.

“Her condition is not without challenges, though. She has had 43 operations, and in 2011, she had eight brain operations. That year was particularly challenging for us, as she spent 11 months in hospital and five of those months she spent in the intensive care unit. That year, we thought we would lose her.”

She had never been treated differently and that had probably contributed to her feisty nature and independent spirit, Ms Bailey said.

“I don’t like it when people say ‘shame’ when they hear Cassidy’s story. Don’t pity or shame my child. She is not a burden. She is a blessing from God.”

Wilfred Diedricks, CEO of the CTAPD, said the fund-raiser and events like it helped to raise awareness about disability.

“A lot of decisions are being made for the people with disabilities, when it should be them who make their own decisions. Corporates sometimes fear to employ people with disabilities, and we need to sensitise people around this.”

Ms Pandy said Cassidy has the potential to reach great heights. “She wants to be part of the paralympic team in four years’ time. She’s got great potential, she’s open-minded and she will get very far.”

Ms Bailey thanked Ms Pandy for her help. “I want to give my child her dream, and I thank God for Rashieda.”

The dance-a-thon, on Saturday November 26, starts at 9am. Tickets are R30 each for adults and R15 each for children, and participants are encouraged to ask their family and friends to sponsor every minute they’ll be part of it. There will also be hot dogs, boerewors rolls, cooldrinks, and smoothies for sale, as well as massage therapists and a health awareness information table.

Contact CTAPD at 021 637 1204 or Ms Bailey at 073 505 4726, or check out The Mindshift Club’s Facebook page for details.