A twirl, smile put dance benefit in motion
Chants of “Sara” echoed throughout the crowded gymnasium.
As she spun around in her orange and yellow garb, tossing the baton in the air over and over, Sara Frey was beaming.
With each catch of the baton, or perfectly executed twirl, Sara's smile grew bigger.
“It's just wonderful to see our daughter back doing the things that she loves,” said Colleen Frey, Sara's mother. “She's getting back to normal.”
One year after Sara, 15, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, she joined winter guard performers from across the region at Brentwood High School for “Music in Motion.”
The event, which brought together twirlers from Sara's Brentwood-based team, Dance FX, and others from across the Pittsburgh region, honored Sara's bravery during the last year and raised money for the Sara Frey Juvenile Leukemia Foundation. Sara now is in remission.
“It's pretty amazing. It was just great to see everybody come together,” said Sara, a Brentwood High School sophomore, who has been twirling for three years.
Sara joined Dance FX, an independent dance and twirl center, two years ago as a twirler, after spending one year on the now defunct Brentwood Middle School team.
“She just loves to twirl,” said Sean Frey, Sara's father.
It's the after-school activities — like twirling, swimming, track, stage crew and marching band — that keep the always smiling Brentwood high schooler happy and entertained, her family members said.
“I love performing,” Sara said.
Last year, just weeks after performing at the Tournament of Bands, Tournament Indoor Association's all chapter championships in Wildwood, N.J., where Dance FX is a part of Western Pennsylvania's Chapter 8, Sara learned she had leukemia.
Sara underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and spent weeks at a time at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
It was her friends — and the community — that got Sara and her family through the most difficult times by visiting the hospital, delivering meals and holding fundraisers to show the Freys they were there for them.
“It means a lot to all of us,” Colleen Frey said.
Twirlers from around Chapter 8 wanted to do something for Sara, said Dance FX Director Kathleen Goettler.
“Sara's always uplifting. She's always very fun,” Goettler said.
“Sara is always so happy, even at practices. She always has a smile on her face,” said Goettler's daughter Crystal, 19, who performed alongside Sara. “And she always wants to learn more.”
After months of hospital stays, Sara last fall began to return to “normal” activities.
Performing alongside her teammates for the tribute number last week — where members of Chapter 8, mostly sporting “Sara's Army” T-shirts, intertwined their bodies in the shape of a ribbon — was extra meaningful for Sara, she said.
“Music in Motion” also served as the final performance for Dance FX, started 10 years ago by Kathleen Goettler when her middle school age daughter, Gina, was not allowed to dance on Brentwood's high school only team.
“It's kind of like a goodbye,” Sara said.
Goettler, who directed this year's 11 member team, has overseen Dance FX to provide her daughters and Brentwood students a place to dance and twirl, she said. But now that her youngest daughter is in college, it is time to end the program, she said.
Sara said she plans to join another team next year.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.