Dance program shows 'Anyone Can be a Star' - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Dance program shows 'Anyone Can be a Star'

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Darby Emma Jones Darby Emma Jones
Valerie Jones Valerie Jones
Rubie Stetzer Rubie Stetzer
Rachael Pierce Rachael Pierce
Onalaska, WI (WXOW) - -

A little girl from Huntsville, Alabama is being honored through her parents' efforts to share her passion for dance and life.

Darby Emma Jones was born in 1999 to Patrick and Valerie Jones with Down Syndrome, a heart defect and Leukemia-dancing her way through obstacles with optimism, loyalty, and perseverance. 

After Darby lost her battle to cancer in 2013, her parents knew they had to do something to carry on her legacy.

"When you suffer a tragedy such as losing a child you really just want to lie down and die with them, but I knew that that was the last thing that Darby would want. This person with this zest for life and living and I knew that she would want me to do something," expressed Valerie.

That something turned out to be starting a non-profit, Darby's Dancers, giving children with special needs the opportunity to find the same joy in movement that Darby felt.

"She wanted to be famous, so I said okay, we're going to start this dance program and my goal is to have one in every state," added Valerie.

Since the program started in November of 2014, the organization has expanded to 15 programs in 11 states spanning from California to North Carolina. Misty's Dance Unlimited in Onalaska is the first studio in Wisconsin to embrace the organization.

"It's been really exciting just spending time with her. Every single girl is just amazing," said 10-year-old Rubie Stetzer, one of the student volunteers paired up with 9-year-old RubyAnne.

"Repetition is really important with the girls and so having someone be able to model the correct movements and to help them with everything that they're doing is very important," said Rachael Pierce, RubyAnne's mother.

Katie Reischl, Instructor at Misty's and the teacher of Darby's Dancers said it's about teaching steps, one eight count a time while spreading a message that runs much deeper than movement.

"Remembering that every person has human dignity and worth, no matter what their abilities and we just need to remember to love each other," expressed Reischl.

"We're more alike than different and that goes into every aspect of life. Whether it's do you have an extra chromosome or do you love to dance," expressed Pierce.

Helping Darby's infectious smile and twinkling eyes shine down on future stars across the country.


Due to the medical expenses many families with children with special needs face, Darby's Dancers offers classes free of charge. To learn more or make a donation visit the website below. 

MORE INFORMATION: Darby's Dancers

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