Kathy Nofziger Yeakey is Executive Director for Anabaptist Disabilities Network.
My daughter, age fifteen, loves contra-dancing and has been going to a local monthly community dance fairly regularly for several years with her friends. However the rest of our family had never gone to any of the contra-dances. When a special contra-dance for families was advertised as being accessible for all ages and abilities, I decided that even though I have two left feet, this time I could go to the contra-dance and see what it was like. I cajoled the rest of our family to come along with us.
As promised, there were people at the Family Contra-Dance from age two to about seventy-two. I remember learning to square dance in my fifth grade gym class many years ago, but I never became proficient at any type of dancing. The Family Contra-Dance turned out to be just my style.
One of my partners in the circle dances was eleven-year-old Alta. I remember, years ago, watching Alta riding in a baby backpack and standing as tall as she could to look over her mom’s shoulder at everything. She’d caught my attention, because I had carried my own children around in a baby backpack when they were little. That was years ago, though, and now Alta was showing all of us newcomers to the dance how to kick that leg high when we gathered in together with our circle and whoop with joy before swinging back out and around the circle. It was great.
Alta knew all the dances already, and she paired up with a twenty-something young woman who wore professional dance heels on her dancing feet. They both looked to be regular attenders at these contra-dances. They were good dancers.
When I began working with Anabaptist Disabilities Network last summer, I recognized Alta's photo on an old brochure. After nine or ten years of using her baby photo, it seems like high time to include a new photo of this amazing young dancer who loves dancing so much that she takes weekly lessons. The photo that her dad sent to me, at the top of this page, is one of Alta ready for dance class.
Alta's photo (center) on ADNet's display at Mennonite Church USA Convention
Alta and her family attend Assembly Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, where they are all actively involved in the life of the congregation.
Alta’s parents, Carol and Phil Good-Elliott, encourage both of their children, Ben and Alta, to participate as much as they would like to in church and worship. They told me that Alta attends Sunday school class with her grade peers, and she enjoys the Children’s time during worship each week.
One Sunday each month, participants at Assembly bring food & toiletry items that are donated to the Window, which is a local non-profit agency that runs a soup-kitchen and food pantry. On these Sundays, children collect these items during the first-hour worship time, either as part of the offering or as part of children’s time. Sometimes Alta carries a basket around to collect items, while other times she prefers to stay at her seat and help pass out the items her family has brought.
During Advent this year, Alta was one of five fifth-grade girls who participated each week in a dance to bring in the advent candle at the beginning of worship. As their family schedule allows, Alta also participates in the congregation’s kindergarten-through-fifth-grade activities that are planned every few months. This could include packing school kits or health kits to donate to Mennonite Central Committee, swimming, candle dipping, caroling, or potato and garlic harvesting at a church member’s house.
Alta is only a year or so younger than my youngest child, and I have been fortunate to watch her grow over the last ten years or so, from learning to walk to now teaching me to circle dance!