KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — A Piedmont family thought they were enjoying a night out – only to learn they were part of the main event.
Gracie Belanger, 4, has been a dancer at Extravadance & Tumble in Kernersville since she was 18 months old.
That’s around the same time she started facing a series of health challenges.
“Gracie was born with neurofibromatosis type one. It is a genetic condition where she is missing the gene that suppresses tumors. She was diagnosed at 18 months with an optic glioma on her right eye,” Gracie’s mom Barbara Belanger said. “She was diagnosed with a second optic glioma on her left eye and she started to lose the vision in her left eye.”
Extravadance & Tumble has hosted several dance-a-thons in support of Dancers Against Cancer – a national organization that provides financial assistance to people in the dance community impacted by cancer.
“The second that we told them that we have a dancer at the studio, it was just an almost immediate response,” said Erica Summerlin, the director of competitive dance at Extravadance & Tumble.
The groups came up with a plan to surprise the Belanger family at an event in Charlotte.
Belanger initially thought she was going to meet DAC board members.
To her surprise, the family was called on stage and presented a check for $10,000.
“I was crying because it’s very overwhelming to have that kind of support from our dance studio, from Dancers Against Cancer to our family they don’t even know that they had just met and heard about, so it was a beautiful night,” Belanger said.
Extravadance & Tumble raised more than $17,000 at this year’s dance-a-thon.