Johnsonville dancers hoof it for sick kids - WBTW-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Florence, SC

Johnsonville dancers hoof it for sick kids

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By John Sweeney

JOHNSONVILLE – When someone says they “danced the night away,” they’re most often speaking figuratively; however, for students at Cheri and Company School of Performing Arts in Johnsonville, that’s more than just an expression.

A “dance-a-thon” at the school’s studio at 108 East Broadway Street was held the night of June 11 and into the morning of June 12 to raise funds for Jamison Powell and Jessa Barnhill, two local youths with rare medical conditions.

For $10, the kids could dance and enjoy snacks donated by the local IGA grocery store from 7a.m. till midnight. For $20, students could enjoy an entire night of dancing fund, ending at 7p.m. the next morning.

All proceeds were split between Powell and Barnhill

Amanda Myers, a 16-year-old from Hemingway and long time student at Cheri and Company, came up with the idea for the event and spearheaded its organization.

“She said, ‘I really want to do this,” Cheryl Helms-Bolyn, owner, director and choreographer at Cheri and Company said. “And I said, ‘Well, you put it together and would be really nice.’”

Myers has been dancing for Cheryl for fifteen years, since she started the studio in Johnsonville and said her decision to help the Powell family came after the company raised money at a recital held earlier in the spring.

“We raised money when we did ‘Cinderella,’” Myers said. “I was thinking we need to try and do something else to raise money for Jamison and then I thought about it and thought, ‘You know, we’re a dance studio, so why don’t we do a dance-a-thon and we could raise money for Jessa, too, because she’s one of our dancers.”

Jessa, a 3-year-old from Johnsonville, started taking lessons with Cheri and Company earlier this year and quickly gained a reputation for being a spunky little dancer among the company’s students.

Myers and other students made up flyers advertising the event in the weeks prior, as well as a Facebook page, and spread the word. They also enlisted the help of IGA to donate snacks and drinks, and Pirates T-shirts Plus in Lake City to make t-shirts for the event.

“It’s something fun and different,” she said.

The case of five-year-old Jamison Powell has been source of public interest since a malignant brain tumor was discovered in April; however, for Jessa Barnhill, a 3-year-old and student at the dance studio, her condition might not be as well known.

Jessa was diagnosed with a rare heart condition shortly after birth when the family’s pediatrician decided to further investigate what appeared to be a simple heart murmur. Doctors diagnosed the newborn with Long QT syndrome, a very rare heart arrhythmia that causes the heart to “recharge” after beating a little longer than normal.

The daughter of Keith and Hope Barnhill of Johnsonville, Jessa was at the event Friday night, playing and dancing right along with the other dancers like a normal, rambucious little tot.Her mother, Hope, a math teacher at Johnsonville High School, said that while her daughter’s condition can triggered by a number of things, it hasn’t held her back.

“It hasn’t slowed her down a bit,” Hope said. “She has learned so much at dance…She just enjoys it so much.”

Hope added that Jessa had just been awarded the “Busy Bee Award” at her day care a few weeks prior, further proof that she is as active as any other child her age.

Jessa’s condition was discovered as the result of a hunch from a Dr. Hletko, a family pediatrician located in Georgetown.

Hletko had helped the Barnhills in years prior when they lost a child to another rare condition, Hope said, so when Jessa showed up at his office shortly after being born with what doctors described as a strange heart murmur, he decided to investigate.

The doctor’s curiosity eventually led the family to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where the Long QT syndrome was discovered.

The syndrome is rare, Hope said, and is often referred to as the “Silent Killer” in some medical circles. Long QT has been attributed to some cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), she said, and is often difficult to diagnose until it is too late.

The syndrome is often genetic, Hope said, but in Jessa’s case doctors are unsure of how she came by the syndrome, since no known cases were found in the family’s medical history.

Hope said she heard about the dance-a-thon three weeks before and was pleasantly surprised by the thought.

“I was really shocked, very shocked, actually,” Hope said. “Amanda (Myers) is amazing. It’s very sweet of her to even think about doing something like this at her age, and out of the blue with no prompting and no asking. It’s just wonderful.”

The mother and grandmother of Jamison Powell, Lindsay Powell and Belinda Roberts, were also at the event, sharing Hope’s sentiments and thanking Amanda and the rest of the company for their efforts.


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