Three Rivers Champion: Barbara Johnson

Volunteer dance mentor Barbara Johnson uses her time to share the gift of dance.



When a fellow ballroom dancer told Barbara Johnson that she was starting a dance program for special needs students, Johnson was immediately on board.

“I told her ‘when and if you need volunteers, I’d love to offer up,’” she says.

That was six years ago, and Johnson has been a volunteer with “Yes, You Can Dance!” ever since.

“Yes, You Can Dance!” is a program whose mission is to enhance the physical and emotional well being of individuals with intellectual, developmental and/or physical disabilities through dance. As a volunteer dance mentor, Johnson, the owner and graphic designer for More Than Words Fine Papers, assists the students with learning the basics of several different dances.

“[The program] is designed to help increase mobility, flexibility and social interaction and to help increase their cognitive abilities,” she says. “As a dance mentor, we guide them through the steps the instructor demonstrates.”

The program is about more than mastering dance steps; Johnson also builds rapport with the students, getting to know them and their challenges to help them work around them.

The mother of a daughter who has Asperger Syndrome, Johnson knows how valuable understanding the circumstances is to understanding the students. She has volunteered all her life with different groups and tries to serve when and where she is needed.

“If we consider ourselves to be members of society, then we have to participate fully. That means taking care of one another, and people can do that in different ways,” she says. “I don’t have money to give, but I do have my time and abilities.

“You may not think you have abilities or talents, but what you know can and will help others.”

If you know someone who should be recognized for their volunteerism, please nominate them at pittsburghmagazine.com/Three-Rivers-Champions
 

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