P.E.I. dancer with Down syndrome feels 'blessed' to dance at fundraising gala
First dancer with Down syndrome chosen for Hospice P.E.I.’s Dancing with the Stars fundraiser
The cheers were loud and the audience was on its feet after a special performance at the recent Dancing with the Stars event in Charlottetown, an annual fundraiser for Hospice P.E.I.
They were cheering for dancer Cameron Gordon, the first ever contestant with Down syndrome to participate in the fundraiser, held Oct. 16 at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel.
"It feels really amazing, I almost cried a little bit," said Gordon after his performance.
"The crowd was over the moon and that makes me feel like I can do anything. And I'm so happy right now and I'm so blessed."
Gordon, who danced to The Time of My Life from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack with his dance partner Megan Connors, won the judges' choice award and raised close to $9,000 for Hospice P.E.I.
It's not the first time the Charlottetown man has defied peoples' expectations.
He's a trained powerlifter and has competed at the national games for Special Olympics Canada. He's also been dancing for seven years, including one year of classes at Holland College.
"When I'm dancing I feel happy and powerful," said Gordon.
Connors has been Gordon's dance teacher at Dance Virtuosa in Charlottetown for the past seven years and said he has made huge progress through hard work and dedication.
"Cameron continues to blow me away just with his dedication and empathy as a person. And he's just so lovely to be around, and he's such a treat to have in class because he works harder than anyone else," said Connors.
Connors chose the iconic Dirty Dancing song for their performance because of what she feels the song stands for.
"Me and Cameron, every time we're in this room we're having the time of our life, whether it goes well or not," she said.
"We could be on the floor laughing mid-dance or we make it all the way through. And no matter what, it's always the best time."
Gordon's mom, Catherine MacInnis, says dance is innate for him.
"He hears music and he starts choreographing dances in the living room," said MacInnis.
"He starts telling me how he would choreograph a song and then starts showing me how he would play out that choreography … I just find it incredible. I'm very proud."
I feel something really good is happening for me. And I can do anything I want.— Cameron Gordon
She said people often underestimate what those with disabilities can do — and she's been in that situation herself.
A couple of years ago, Gordon wanted to take tap dancing lessons. MacInnis decided to take the class with him so she could help him go over the steps at home.
"And guess what? He didn't need me, I needed him," she said.
"I would look over and he'd be doing the steps automatically, and I had no clue what I was doing."
For MacInnis, this moment of seeing her son in a starring role alongside other dancers is a chance to show people what those with disabilities are capable of.
"Whether you have a disability, intellectual disability, physical disability or not, everyone should be given opportunities," she said.
"Years ago, people with Down syndrome were thought not to be able to do a lot of things. And there are people all around the world like Cameron … who are showing us that they can do anything that they put their mind to."
'I just had fun'
Leading up to the big night of the fundraiser, Gordon said he was feeling nervous and excited. But he nailed his performance — including that iconic Patrick Swayze lift — dancing across the stage with Connors, looking polished and professional.
"That feels really amazing," said Gordon after the big dance was over.
"I raised a lot of money, and I had a whole lot of help. I'm just happy and I just had fun."