Who: 15-Year-Old Dancer Sarah Todd Hammer
Why we chose her: Sarah Todd Hammer started dancing when she was just 3 years old. At the age of 8, during one of her ballet classes, Sarah became ill and was taken to an urgent care center where she was quickly diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare neurological condition that causes the spinal cord to become inflamed. She would soon learn that she was paralyzed from the neck down, but that didn’t halt her passion for dance.
After extensive treatment and intensive physical and occupational therapy, Sarah finally regained the ability to walk as well as partial use of both arms and her right hand. However, it was the moment during therapy when she successfully stood on her tiptoes that she knew she would be able to dance again.
Only a few months after being paralyzed, Sarah started to reteach her body how to dance. She noticed she had trouble executing certain movements that were previously simple for her, so she adjusted. She started to come to the realization that she could choreograph dances that were better suited for her body, such as her “Adrift” solo above and other dances she now posts to YouTube.
While her condition is still a struggle, Sarah continues to improve with every dance she choreographs: “Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses; parts of my body may be weak, but I certainly am strong.”
Fun fact: Sarah is an author too! She has two published books discussing her dance journey and struggle with transverse myelitis (co-authored with her friend Jennifer Starzek who was also affected by this disease): 5k, Ballet, and a Spinal Cord Injury (2013) and Determination (2016).
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