VILLA PARK – Like many little girls, Tricia Granato's young daughters Abby and Nora both wanted to be involved in dance class, but the girls were both born with low muscle tone and keeping up with their peers in class was difficult.
Then, this summer an opportunity for Abby and Nora to participate in Rock Star Club was presented to Granato. This new program through Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region provided physical and occupational therapy to girls through dance. Granato jumped at the chance to get her girls involved.
"This was just a good opportunity for them to be involved in dance," she said. "It was so great for them because they felt like it was part of a dance class."
The program was funded by a $10,000 grant the organization received from the Avril Lavigne Foundation.
"This is a way to get physical and occupational therapy in a really fun way so it doesn't feel like work," said Julie Jancius, a spokesperson from the organization. "It's also a way to get children with special needs that social interaction they need."
The 15-week program culminated Monday evening with a pizza party and recital where the girls dressed in tutus and performed dance routines for their families.
As she prepared for the recital, Abby Granato, 11, of Naperville said her favorite thing about Rock Star Club was getting to dance and that she was looking forward to performing her favorite dance to the Avril Lavigne song "Keep Holding On."
Her younger sister Nora, 6, said that she was most looking forward to the fancy outfit she would be wearing.
Laura Znajda, an Easter Seals manager, said the program brought in a dance instructor into the class so that it would feel like a real dance class, and the girls worked with staff and volunteers at Easter Seals. Throughout the course, the girls received different therapy to achieve their personal goals. One participant, for example, wanted to put her hair in a ponytail without help so she focused on developing arm muscles and broadening her range of motion.
Granato said throughout the program she watched her daughters become stronger in their movements and more confident socially. Before the class, Abby couldn't isolate her hips and now she can, and through the class, Nora gained enough strength to stand on tip-toe.
"It's little movements that you wouldn't even think of," Granato said. "For us it was a big deal."
Rock Star Club is something Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region will hold again beginning in January. Jancius said the organization is grateful for the financial support from the Avril Lavigne Foundation, and they are hopeful that the rock star will visit the facility some day.
"The girls all bonded really well together," Granato said. "They all had a positive influence on each other."