It started when she was two. Kate was clearly going to be tall and her father and I knew early on we wanted her to feel comfortable in and proud of her body. We enrolled her in a body movement class when she was two. She never stopped dancing.
With her “made to dance” t-shirt, her room full of ballet art, her car with “8count” license plates and pointe shoes hanging on her door, dance was her passion. She twirled and leapt through the house, rarely walked, as she felt the freedom dance brought to her spirit.
Things got complicated after 16 years of dance lessons, rehearsals, recitals, choreographing in the basement, high school dance team, performing at games and dance competitions. Challenged by scoliosis for most of her life, high school graduation was a defining time as she was heading into a new type of back surgery. The surgeon could not guarantee she would dance again but he knew he could stop the scoliosis. Sad and disappointed by the news she was not destroyed but wanted to praise God for the gift of dance he had given her. Her last public performance was at church with a beautiful and inspiring dance she choreographed to a much-cherished praise song.
It wasn’t surprising to anyone who knew her that she didn’t give up and she was dancing around the house again a year later. During her recovery from surgery she started planning the idea of a non-profit that would provide free dance lessons for disadvantaged children. She felt so blessed by her experience and believed everyone could benefit from the discipline, the cooperation, the commitment, the focus, the free expression and beauty of dance.
In 2003 she started Mizzou Center Stage Dance a student organization where college students would volunteer to teach dance lessons for free to children in the community who could not afford dance lessons. The organization is still in existence today and continues to serve many children from the community.
Kate’s passion for providing free dance lessons to children never wavered. Love, marriage, a new faith community, and a job she adored were her focus for the next few years. During the time her husband started seminary, Kate again decided to ignite an effort to provide free dance lessons to the children of the seminary students. She was able to work an arrangement with the school and classes began. Beginning small, this too grew quickly and reached beyond only seminary students. At recital, never to be done with dance, her real final public performance was in Dec. 2014 when she and the other teachers surprised us all with a teacher dance that brought down the house.
Several years after its creation, Kate was recognized as the founder of Mizzou Center Stage at their annual recital. With typical Kate humility, she was not prideful only grateful for the success of the endeavor. In 2016, Mizzou Center Stage held their recital in her memory. This time Ellie, my granddaughter, and I attended. The bittersweet moment of awe and anguish when Ellie realized what was happening will be in my memory forever. We don’t know if Ellie will have a lasting interest in dance but it doesn’t matter. The experience of dancing together continues to be an important thread that connects them.
After Kate passed away a mother of one of her dance students posted on Facebook
“Kate, you’ve showed us how to dance through this thing called life with confidence in how you are and whose you are, with passion to live beyond yourself and make others feel like they belong, with loving deep and living real in community, with laughter and grace-always grace. You leave a hole in this world.”
Kate was blessed by her dance ability and experience. She in turn blessed others with her gifts. Kate’s Heart is committed to continuing Kate’s gifts by blessing others as she would have. We are announcing a new initiative to establish The Kate’s Heart for Dance scholarships that will benefit children in various settings to pay for dance lessons or pay for costumes they otherwise could not afford. If you would like to join us in this effort or any of our projects you can donate here and/or pray for us as we carry on this mission.