Must all dancers use their legs for graceful movements? Samantha Ross, a 27-year-old dancer with Spina Bifida who uses a wheelchair, proves you only need determination and confidence.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) states that Spina Bifida (SB) means “cleft spine” and is the most common neural tube defect in the United States, affecting 1,500 to 2,000 of more than 4 million babies born each year. In simpler terms, SB is the incomplete formation of the spine and can cause partial paralysis or learning disabilities.
Many children born with SB – about 90 percent – have grown up to adulthood. About 80 percent have a normal intelligence level and 75 percent play sports. The Sydney Children’s Hospital recommends specific sports for those with SB: swimming, sailing, horse riding, bike riding, canoeing and paddling, bowling, and wheelchair sports.
Samantha Ross had a hole in her back due to SB and was only able to walk up until fourth grade. Ross eventually developed scoliosis and lost her ability to walk. She eventually had her first surgery at 11 years old.
Ross majored in meteorology at Tarrant County College Northeast. Her chocolate lab, Truffle, accompanied her to classes, helped Ross pick up anything she dropped on the floor, and opened doors for her.
The Collegian also reports that Ross used to love riding horses when she could still walk, but she switched to dancing after she began using a wheelchair. Studying absorbed much of her time, so she gave up dancing for a while during college.
“Now, I don’t do anything just because I don’t have time with school and everything else I’ve got going on,” she said.
Even with her busy schedule, Ross shares that the depth of her connection with dancing is still there.
“But I’d love to get back into dancing, and I know Truffles would be right there with me,” Ross said.
Ross danced on her high school drill team and took a modern dance class in college. Despite Ross’ efforts, others believed she could not truly dance due to her physical condition.
“I’ve had countless people say ‘Oh, she can’t do that, she can’t do that.’ And then I go out and do that and they go, ‘Oh, you can do that.’” Ross said.
Her determination wowed instructor Tamara Jenkins at 24 Hour Fitness in Southlake. Jenkins is one of 75 exclusive NIKE Training Club ambassadors for 24 Hour Fitness nationwide, spent many years as a NIKE Rockstar Dance Instructor, was the official trainer for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and a teacher who specializes in several dance styles. Jenkins knows talent and she sees it in Ross.
“I have been teaching this class for 12 years,” Jenkins said. “I had seen Sam around the gym… and she came in and I was like, okay, she came into the hip hop class- alright.”
Sports for people with certain medical conditions and disabilities have increased in popularity over the last few years. As a result, people like Ross, among others, do not listen to those who may not support their dreams. Athletes like Ross show physical limitations do not prevent participation in sports. Her determinism and refusal to give up is inspiring for so many other men and women who have SB and other physical limitations.
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