There’s nothing Jimmy Long of Naperville, Illinois, loves more than dancing — and he’s not letting bullies dampen his passion.
The 16-year-old has been competing since he was 6 and dreams of becoming a professional dancer. And with the support of his dad, Greg, he’s leading a movement of acceptance for other boys like him!
As a male dancer, Jimmy is no stranger to mean comments. During a school dance performance when he was 14, students in the audience shouted homophobic slurs at him and the other male dancers. While it stung to see his son treated this way, Greg saw an opportunity to help the boys rise above the hate and encourage others to keep dancing.
“Instead of getting angry, I decided to make a T-shirt for them,” Greg told Today. “And I came up with, ‘Hey, we’re just going to dance on. We’re just going to move past this.'”
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That’s how the #DanceOn nonprofit came to be. The father and son began selling thousands of shirts printed with the phrase, but instead of pocketing the profits, they created scholarships for male dancers who can’t afford class and studio fees!
What’s more, the organization has fostered a supportive community. #DanceOn holds classes with professional male dancers who can relate to their younger counterparts’ struggles with bullying. It also produces dance videos centered around acceptance.
Not only has the nonprofit empowered young boys to follow their passion, but it’s given Jimmy a powerful voice. In 2018, he opened former first lady Michelle Obama’s book tour by speaking onstage about bullying.
“I lost it,” Greg said. “I admittedly had tears coming down my face, because the strength that it takes for somebody like that to stand in front of 20,000 people and say, ‘I’ve been bullied and I’m not going to let it stop me from what I like to do’ — it was a proud moment.”
But Jimmy says his dad was the source of that strength.
“I definitely couldn’t have done this without my dad,” Jimmy said. “He helped me realize a lot of important lessons, like, ‘Stay true to yourself,’ and he is just super supportive.”
What an amazing way to turn hate into something so positive! Thanks, Jimmy and Greg, for reminding us that while we can’t control what others say about us, we don’t have to let it affect us.
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