BusyFeet: a boon for special kids

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By Tony Thomas, Rotary Club of Central Melbourne

The Rotary-backed BusyFeet dance program for Melbourne kids with disabilities has gained strength and recognition since it started five years ago. 

Rotary International director Noel Trevaskis at the Shepparton D9800 conference in March was greatly impressed by the program. He has now invited the children to perform at the Australasian Zone Institute in Hobart in September 2018. This will be a wonderful opportunity for the kids and the program itself, says Lin Hughes, D9800 chair of BusyFeet (www.busyfeet.org.au)

“The kids love performing and applause, and they have performed at several public functions and their end -year concert. The more we can fund-raise, the more kids and carers can get to Hobart,” Lin says. There are six programs running, supported by the D9800 clubs of Stonnington, Chadstone/East Malvern, Caroline Springs, Brighton North, Camberwell, Canter-bury and the Altona cluster. A seventh program is being prepared by a D9810 club. In total about 50 kids are involved, along with their carers and volunteers who take responsibility for the sessions. The kids have conditions like Autism, Downs Syndrome, deafness and cerebral palsy. They learn at their own pace in BusyFeet. Initially they tend to be shy or reluctant but the music, rhythm and movement ignite enthusiasm and they begin racing in to take part in the weekly dance sessions. BusyFeet was District-endorsed in 2013 and fills a big gap for hard-pressed families. 

Getting a BusyFeet Program established by volunteers is time-consuming but we are here to help for as long as it takes, says Lin, who coordinates quarterly brain-storming among all clubs . The benefits for the kids and carers are simply enormous, she says. 

BusyFeet Melton has just received a letter of thanks from Lisa, mother of a non-verbal autistic boy. “He didn't fit in any mainstream music or dance program although we organised many attempts,” Lisa says. “But two years ago I got him attending both the Melton and Hillside sessions every week in school term. I just wanted to see him happy and I sure did see that happen! 

“He relates to the other kids, feels safe and secure, and relishes each song and movement. He's been learning at his own pace and we have watched how his coordination and skills have grown. He loves wearing the costumes and hats, and we see him learning social etiquette when he meets new kids.” 

Lisa says the chance for parents and carers to network during the sessions is a big bonus: in her words, “a lifeline”. The children are looked after by volunteers at the sessions, so parents can take a step back and are free to chat and compare notes about issues. Interested in helping with donations or your time? Contact pp Lin Hughes 0406 795 817 Email: Info@busyfeet.org.au

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