In 1994, when Kim Moncrief graduated from VCU with degrees in dance and psychology, she had no idea what would come of her passion for dance. She traveled and danced competitively with a company and taught many students locally, but she never imagined where her dancing would ultimately lead.
Until 2006, when she found out she was pregnant with her son, Logan.
“I announced in a dance class that he had Down syndrome,” said Moncrief. “One of my dancers, Ashley Gregory, immediately steered me toward setting up classes for children with disabilities. She and Logan were my big inspirations, and Ashley is now my administrative assistant.”
Moncrief held her first Miracles in Motion Dance Troupe class in 2007 for a group of five students. She was working for a local dance studio at the time, and the school graciously allowed her to hold classes there. “I had a big idea of what I wanted to do and a specific long-term goal,” Moncrief said.
Moncrief gradually dropped her classes at the dance school to focus on Miracles in Motion. In 2012, she was ready to go out on her own; the program had tripled in size.
To serve class participants, who are ages three up with a variety of special needs, Moncrief also knew she would require lots of help to guide the students during classes. She quickly found interested volunteers coming from all directions – VCU dance and therapy students, friends of dancers, friends of friends, companies like Verizon. “We actually have more assistants than dancers now, which exceeds my ultimate goal of having one-on-one assistance,”
Miracles in Motion offers a variety of dance classes and structures for those with disabilities. “Everyone takes company class,” said Moncrief. “They all learn the same production number for performances, and we work on skills like jumping, skipping, turning, balance, taking turns, and even simply standing in line.”
Students enrolled in company class can also take specialty classes, which include tap, ballet, and an exercise class much like a workout class at the gym. Additionally, students who are able to do more by themselves and practice on their own at home can schedule private lessons. Children learn solos and delve deeper into their favorite style of dance
to work at perfecting their skills.
Moncrief has expanded the program to three locations and offers classes three days per week. She wanted to share her passion for dance, but she had other goals, as well. Her vision was to create an environment where those with disabilities have a sense of belonging and their own social circles, and where parents of those with disabilities are connected. “I wanted to give parents of children with special needs a place to connect and a chance to take a break. This is something in which they do not have to participate. Their job is to go away,” said Moncrief.
She tells parents to leave and if she needs them she will find them. “The parents can use class time to run errands, read a book, take their other children out for some special time together or network with each other,” said Moncrief. “I knew I had accomplished my goal one day when I opened the door and all of the parents were gone. I thought, ‘Mission accomplished!’”
In August of 2014, Miracles in Motion received nonprofit status. Donations to the organization are now tax deductible, opening doors to grants, funding, and more opportunities for giving. “We have many volunteers from Verizon,” said Moncrief. “When they volunteer a certain amount of hours in a quarter, Verizon donates $750 to the organization. We are now eligible to receive those donations.”
Additionally, Miracles in Motion is involved in campaigns such as Amazon Smiles and Kroger Community Rewards.
About plans for the coming year, Moncrief said, “My big goal for 2015 is building a scholarship fund to help families pay for classes and costumes.”
The group just completed a GoFundMe campaign and raised $3,000 to help pay for company costumes for the kids. To further fund their second annual recital and the cost of additional needs for the dance troupe, the organization is taking a more traditional approach by hosting a spaghetti dinner for the community this month. “The church has graciously donated the space for the evening, Giovanni’s restaurant will be providing the entrees, and Williams Bakery is donating the bread,” said Moncrief.
The Miracles in Motion dancers will assist with serving, greeting, and seating throughout the evening. “They are the priority and this is another way to help them develop new skills,” Moncrief said.
And of course the evening wouldn’t be complete without dance performances. “People are surprised at how good the kids are and that they are all moving in the right direction, jumping, and turning,” said Moncrief. “It is great to help educate the community and show that if you just give these kids a chance and a little time, they can do it.”