Recently, I caught up with Susan Rizzo, president of The Andréa Rizzo Foundation, for a brief, online interview. Here’s what Susan had to say:
Tell us about The Andrea Rizzo Foundation and why it is important to dancers.
This is the only 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization in the United States that provides grants that fund dance therapy programming exclusively for children with cancer and special needs.
Programs are led by trained Dance/Movement Therapists registered with the American Dance Therapy Association. In addition, the Foundation funds expressive movement programs for the same pediatric population that are directed by dance professionals of the highest caliber.
Dance Across America™ is our fundraising initiative that offers dancers the opportunity to support our cause while combining compassion with their love of dance. Dancers understand the power of dance and have a chance to make a difference in the lives of children in hospitals and schools nationwide by holding dance events, dance-a-thons, and benefit performances. Keep it simple – Keep it meaningful and… Let your heart move your feet®.
You also wrote the book, “Drea’s Dream: An Unfinished Dance.” Please tell us about this book and why you wrote it.
It was my daughter’s (Andréa) idea to write the book. She knew that our journey through her childhood cancer at 18 months old and subsequent, learning disabilities proved that if you have a dream – you can achieve it – no matter what the obstacles.
Dréa’s Dream: An Unfinished Dance, tells the inspiring story of a mother’s and daughter’s indomitable journey of triumph over childhood cancer and disabilities, only to face the ultimate challenge of unexpected loss. The book also shares practical lessons learned about surviving the unthinkable and brings to light the power of dance to heal.
Actress Jane Seymour honored me through her Open Hearts Foundation and wrote the foreword and here is an excerpt:
“Dréa’s Dream: An Unfinished Dance will empower parents facing the devastating news of their child’s cancer diagnosis as well as parents of any child facing disabilities. In addition, it offers inspiration to dancers, who know firsthand the therapeutic value of dance as a healing modality and to anyone who is looking for an inspiring story of a mother’s and daughter’s everlasting bond. For parents who have actually lost a child, this book provides a guiding light and offers help to find a reason to go on when such tragedy strikes.” – Jane Seymour, Actress, Artist, Philanthropist
What was the biggest challenge you faced in starting your non-profit and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has always been that I don’t like to ask for money. When you run a non-profit, you must come up with creative ways to do so, and at the same time, make sure that all donors feel appreciated. I am so grateful for their support and try my hardest to thank them over and again!
What has been the greatest joy you’ve experienced in starting The Andrea Rizzo Foundation?
It was uniting dancers for a worthy cause that speaks to their hearts. When we began our Dance Across America fundraising initiative, I found that young dancers willingly and whole-heartedly wanted to find ways to raise funds for children with cancer and special needs.
They understood the impact that dance would have on these fragile children. I find great joy in brainstorming with young dancers for creative ways to raise funds for a cause they feel united with.
I also find great joy in knowing that my only child’s dream lives on.
Do you have any tips for other mothers out there who have children who want to be dancers?
Parents should encourage dance as a form of self expression and nurture talent – but also enlighten their children about career paths such as dance therapy as an additional choice. Performing can be very competitive.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just THANK YOU to EVERY dancer, nationwide, who has helped us to bring dance therapy to children with cancer and special needs.
How can other dancers get involved and learn more about you, your book and your organization?
They can visit www.DreasDream.org and www.SusanRizzoVincent.com. They can also see the acceptance speech of Jane Seymour’s Open Hearts Foundation gala at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyLrsY9N-9k.
Thanks so much Susan. We wish you all the best with your organization and book!