Earlier this year, Bradford dance studio Elite Dance Corps received special recognition from Premier Doug Ford and MPP Caroline Mulroney for their fundraising initiatives for frontline workers at the beginning of the pandemic.
In the spring, the dance studio sold shirts with the phrase 'Social DisDANCEing' made by local business, Times Designs as part of a fundraiser for St. Michael's Hospital securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff.
"PPE was still so very scarce for our frontline workers at that time," said studio owner Tania Ferreira, and wanted to do something to give back.
In total, the dance studio was able to raise $200 for the cause. Ferreira said she was surprised when she received two letters in the mail from Premier Ford and MPP Mulroney last month, congratulating and thanking her and the studio's efforts in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
"I was very surprised and thankful to receive these certificates in the mail," said Ferreira.
"Your support has helped strengthen our community and bring people together," read part of the letter from Mulroney.
"Nothing inspires me more than thinking about all the frontline workers who are working hard to keep us safe and healthy and hearing about all the acts of kindness and compassion that show we care for one another and exemplify the true Ontario Spirit," read Ford's note.
The studio first shut its doors in March 2020 due to COVID-19, and continued with virtual programs. They reopened again in the fall for in-person classes, before having to lockdown again just after Christmas. They have just recently opened up once again just last week.
Ferreira says it has been a stressful year for the business.
"It has been really hard. We took a major hit in the fall, returning clientele numbers were low," she said. "We don't have tangible goods to offer curbside or takeout so it's tough."
"As fortunate as we are to have the technology to allow us to teach online, kids are exhausted from staring at screens," she said.
Through the lockdowns, Ferreira says her dance family has remained loyal.
"The clientele, my dance family, has been so supportive and resilient through all of this. I am amazed at how well our students understood, implemented and followed all safety protocols at the dance studio," she said. "They really are my little heroes. No matter how tough it has been the kids have really shown us how to embrace change and overcome challenges."
Ferreira opened the studio 19 years ago when she was just shy of 21. She was eager to share her passion and knowledge of dance.
"I loved the way dance made me feel, I was happiest when I was dancing. The entire dance team culture was something I never wanted to let go of."