WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – The light-hearted but fiercely competitive event raises money every year for the Augusta Levy Learning Center. That’s the reason that everyone from mayors to meteorologists agree to step outside their comfort zone to help children with autism.
When children start at the Augusta Levy Learning Center, they often need to begin with the basics. “They may not respond to their name,” said Staci Stephen, director of development. “They may not make eye contact. They may be completely non-verbal.”
So they work on everything from communicating to potty training, step by step. “Maybe it’s responding to their name or even bike riding or tolerating haircuts,” Stephen said. “We always say we have a program for that.” They work on every skill with the eventual goal of going to school.
The adolescents learn daily living skills like setting the alarm clock and doing the laundry, and hobbies like air hockey, playing the piano and giving back to the community. “They’re sewing things for the animal shelter such as dog beds, bandanas and bow ties,” Stephen noted.
She says 84% of their graduates end up going to school. Although they have a waiting list, no child is turned away from the Augusta Levy Learning Center for inability to pay. So fund-raisers help parents fill the gaps.
“Fund-raisers like Dancing With The Ohio Valley Stars are crucial to Augusta Levy and the children that attend the center,” she said. “Insurance does cover a portion of the services for the children that attend the center. But there’s a lot of financial burden on the families. So we try to take the money from fund-raisers and put it directly toward the children and the families that attend.”
Dancing With The Ohio Valley Stars starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, November 6 at Wheeling’s Capitol Theatre. Tickets, at $30, are available online at http://augustalevy.org and http://capitoltheatrewheeling.com. Tickets will also be available at the door starting at 6 p.m.
By the way, this year, past contestants including Rachael Dierkes, Jamie Ward and Jessica Rine will be coming back to dance in the opening number.