She has been raising money for Autism Speaks her entire high school career, but Izzy Glennon, a senior at North Shore High School, admitted she was tired of selling basic bracelets and puzzle pieces.
“I just got bored,” she said, “So I was speaking to a bunch of people to come up with new ideas.”
Per the request of a former teacher, Glennon decided to hold a dance to raise money for Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization that sponsors autism research and conducts awareness and outreach activities. “He came up with this idea to do a dance after watching the Netflix show ‘Atypical,’” she said. “This is the first time that North Shore is holding an event like this.”
The Dance for Autism Awareness, held last Friday night, invited children from the middle and high school’s Life Skills Program to dance the night away with their fellow peers. The program aids students with developmental disabilities.
Program coordinator Toni Ann Christie said that while students in Life Skills are able to get a real high school experience like any other student, the dance was particularly special to them.
“This is just amazing and watching them dance and interact with the other kids brings me to tears,” she said.
Christie helped Glennon plan the event, which was no small feat. “I explained to her how much work was involved in putting together a dance, but she did a wonderful job,” Christie said.
Alana Cavallini, a speech-language pathologist in the district, was also impressed with Glennon’s passion for the project. “It’s very special when other students take the initiative to include the kids in our program as much as they include their friends,” she said. “They truly see them as their classmates and their peers, and that’s what’s incredible to watch.”
The dancers jammed to tunes in the gymnasium and enjoyed a hearty buffet of food and desserts donated by local restaurants. After dinner, they watched a slideshow comprised of pictures and video from Glennon’s Shooting Stars basketball program, which allows any student, regardless of ability, to play a game with their classmates.
Shooting Stars holds friendly tournaments weekly on Monday nights. Glennon started the program when she was a sophomore and hopes to pass the tradition on to one of the volunteers after she graduates.
Since she devotes so much of her time to ensuring her peers are afforded the same experiences she’s had, one would think Glennon has a personal connection to the cause. She said she simply loves to volunteer.
“I used to coach a special education soccer program when I was younger, and I couldn’t walk away from it,” she said. “These kids are great, and I’ve seen them in passing, so it encouraged me to get involved. I absolutely love it.”
Christie believes the dance is an added bonus for North Shore’s Life Skills students. “They’re totally included within the high school atmosphere, and [this dance] is nice,” she said. “It proves that they’re really a part of the fabric.”
The event raised over $1,000 for Autism Speaks.