About The Fund
The Samantha Lee Zajac Memorial Fund provides for Adapted Dance programs designed to provide a fun and unique dance experience for girls and boys with physical disabilities. Dancers will enjoy the benefits of movement and creative exercises in a positive and supportive environment.
Sammy and Adapted Dance
Samantha, known to her friends and family as Sammy, was “bright, cheery, and large like the sun.” Those are the words of her sister, Lindsay. Her family remembers Sammy’s love of dance – a love both her sisters, Lindsay and Rachel, share. Sammy, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, found that dance not only gave her much joy and satisfaction, but also helped tremendously with her coordination and confidence. Time and again, the Zajac family has witnessed the magic of dance. They believe it is a magic that every child should have the opportunity to experience.
In 2001, Sammy died suddenly at the age of 8 due to a severe blood infection. To honor Sammy’s life and spirit, her family established a legacy fund in her name. The mission of Sammy’s Fund is to leave a lasting tribute to Sammy by making a significant contribution to children with disabilities. This mission is what inspired the Zajac family to create a unique dance program for children with special needs, so that all children can be touched by the magic of dance. Today, Sammy’s Fund supports the development of an adapted dance program for children with physical challenges who have the desire to experience the magic of dance.
Sammy’s mother, Carla Zajac, explains: “Sammy’s passion for dance motivates and inspires us to give children a chance to participate in dance class, children who might not otherwise be able to so because of their physical limitations. Sammy relished the feeling of being a dancer — dressing up in her costumes, moving in her own special way to music, and joining her friends in class each week. Our vision is to create a new dance program in our community where these children can fulfill their desires to be shining stars, too.
(center) Shining Stars Volunteer Coach Ashley Melnick presents a $480 donation to (left) Dr. Monica Lepore, Shining Stars Program Advisor and WCU Professor of Kinesiology and Adapted Physical Education and (right) Carla Zajac, Shining Stars Program Director. A health and physical education major and adapted physical education minor, Ashley generously raised funds for the adapted dance camp and will assume a leadership role at this summer’s camp as part of her Kinesiology 400 senior advocacy project.
2014 Adapted Dance Camp
Date: Monday, August 4 – Thursday, August 7, 2014
Click here to view the video of the Shining Stars Adapted Dance Camp
Featured on CBS Brotherly Love with Ukee Washington!
Dr. Monica Lepore leading all our dancers and coaches in their “We Are Family” spotlight solos:
Click here to view
Miss Gretchen’s and Miss Carolyn’s class practicing their performance number:
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Miss Diane’s class practicing their performance number:
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Above: 16 dancers, 17 volunteers, and 6 staff at the 2012 Shining Stars Adapted Dance Came
Alpha Delta Pi Sorority at Bucknell University raised over $800 for Shining Stars Adapted Dance Camp. The sorority sisters, including Lindsay Zajac (top row, left), generously volunteered their time leading two successful philanthropy events, “ADPiHop” at Homecoming and a Bull Run restaurant fundraiser.
The 2011 Adapted Dance Camp
Date: Monday, August 8 – Thursday, August 11, 2011
Above Left: 15 dancers, 16 volunteers, and 4 staff at the
2011 Shining Stars Adapted Dance Camp
Above Center: Catie Borger, Emily Borger, and Charlotte Borger of new nonprofit Donate to Dance
make their first ever donation to Shining Stars Adapted Dance Camp, received by Lindsay and Rachel Zajac.
Above right: Shining Stars dancers wear skirts donated by Donate to Dance.
Visit Donate to Dance’s website for more information about the nonprofit.
At the end of 2011’s camp, parents provided the following feedback about their children’s experiences:
“Madison loves music and dancing, so I am thrilled she’s been given this opportunity. She is working her muscles and doesn’t even realize it! I love the girls working with Madison and the socialization with old and new friends. Great experience! Thank you!”
“The dance camp has been such a positive experience for my daughter. To be with so many different kids all of which are having fun through dance has made her so happy. It is just another opportunity for her to realize her potential and ability in a newer arena and has furthered her confidence that people will understand her and quickly learn how to work with her … without mommy! I hope this program can continue to grow and I am so happy that we have found this and look forward to more fun in the future.”
“Teddy benefits from the social interaction with camp adults and peers and gains confidence each year in moving his body to music. He always learns new moves and this carries over to his dancing at home or in other social settings. And of course, he has fun!”
“My daughter benefited in so many ways. Her confidence improved as did her social skills with other children, especially those who she might not meet if not for this program. I believe it allowed her to see the world of possibilities out there for her.”
“She is so confident! She enjoyed contributing in ‘sharing circle.’ She has not ‘outgrown’ camp as she has in other activities. That means you are doing something right!”
“Mallie loves to get up there and be on stage! It is an opportunity she otherwise would not have. She loved interacting with Lindsay and looks up to her. It was such a positive experience for her! Thank you for all you do – what an amazing tribute to Samantha!”
|Click here for a video on the 2009 Adapted Dance Camp!
Produced by Brian Piper of Piper Photography
About the Camp
Shining Stars Adapted Dance Camp is designed to provide a fun and unique dance experience for girls and boys with physical disabilities. Dancers will enjoy the benefits of movement and creative exercises in a positive and supportive environment. Dancers will also have an opportunity to share what they’ve learned for their families on the last day of camp during a special performance.
The camp will be led by a collaborative, experienced team of professionals including dance instructors and adapted physical educators. Each dancer will be paired with a “personal coach” to provide assistance with movement and following directions. Our coach volunteers include West Chester University adapted physical education or dance students and experienced high school dance students.
Shining Stars Adapted Dance Camp is offered free of charge. The costs for the camp are funded by the Samantha Zajac Memorial Fund of the Chester County Community Foundation in cooperation with the West Chester UniversityDepartment of Kinesiology and Department of Theater and Dance and the Diane Matthews School of Dance Arts. Current Adaptive Dance Camps are conducted at West Chester University under the direction of Monica Lepore, Shining Stars Program Advisor and WCU Professor of Kinesiology and Adapted Physical Education
Questions? E-mail or call 610-399-3066
Resources for Families with Children with Physical Disabilities
Dance Offers Key To Mobility For Actor With Cerebral Palsy
Wednesday Night Children’s Adapted Physical Education Program @ WCU
July 28, 2010: Chester County Press- Shining Stars Adapted Dance Camp: Children with
physical challenges experience the magic of dance | Full PR
2008: The Samantha Lee Zajac Memorial Fund was featured in the Chester County Community Foundation’s 2008 Annual Report | Click here to view the 2-page spread.
September 30, 2008: Daily Local News – “Children with Physical Disabilities Shine at Dance Camp” | Full PR
August 25, 2008: Advance Magazine for Physical Therapists – “We’re All in This Together” | Full PR, photo gallery
August 2, 2007: Philadelphia Inquirer – “Their Time to Shine” | Full PR
July 2007: Daily Local News – “Children Learn to Dance Like the Stars” | Full PR
April 6, 2007: Philadelphia Inquirer – “Dance Program Advisor Dr. Monica Lepore Receives Rotary Award” | Full PR
Click here for a photo montage of the 2007 camp
(courtesy of Lindsay Zajac)
You can donate by mailing a check, made payable to:
Samantha Lee Zajac Memorial Fund, c/o CCCF
28 West Market Street
West Chester, PA 19382