HARRISONBURG — Debbie Bryant watched her 28-year-old son dance around a balance ball on a paint bucket and use drum sticks to bang out a rhythm to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” with a big smile on her face.
Bryant’s son has a disability and it’s not easy for him to get out into the community and be among other people his age or people in general, she said.
But on Friday, the Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition hosted a wellness event called Ability Beats, giving him and others the opportunity to do just that.
Bryant heard about the event through a speech and language center and decided it would be a good opportunity.
“He’s so excited,” Bryant said. “It’s great to see him like that.”
The event was designed to accommodate the abilities of anyone who wanted to participate, wherever that looks like.
About 16 months ago, Danette Gibbs, who also works at James Madison University as a project director, received a $180,000, two-year grant from the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities to start the Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition.
Gibbs, her husband, Tom Moran, and a few other faculty members applied for the grant and members of the coalition now include family wellness organizations, advocacy groups and members of the community with disabilities.
Part of the grant money is to provide awareness and training opportunities to people who can help the coalition expand its impact.
“There is a lot of people who want to help, but they don’t know what that looks like,” Gibbs said.
The other part of the grant is to provide wellness opportunities — like Ability Beats.
About 35 people participated in the event, which was held at the Pavilion in downtown Harrisonburg. It was led by Sharon Gregory, who walked the participants through a series of choreographed numbers.
Moran taught a class years ago that included Gregory. He learned years later that she had started a fitness organization and wanted to find ways to make it more inclusive.
Part of the mission of the Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition is to help organizations do just that, Moran said.
“I hope that people that come here, regardless of ability, and celebrate that ability,” Moran said. “Or discover they have greater ability than they thought.”