Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Kid! of the Month – Sarah Todd Hammer – April 2016

Written by Catherine Cheng, AKOM Writer
Sarah Todd Hammer, 14-year-old Dancer

 

Quote of the Month

“TM has made me realize that life is so easy to take for granted.  Most people don’t realize that each time they pick something up, they are fortunate that they’re able to complete, in their eyes, a simple task that means nothing.”
– Sarah Todd Hammer, 14-year-old Dancer

April Amazing Kid! of the Month

Spring is in full bloom with the opening days of April, a month various cultures associate with openness and growth. Supposedly, it’s Latin form, Aprilis, alludes to the season of trees and flowers beginning to open. It’s a month of rain washing over soil and welcoming new greenery, a month of different scents, and fresh hope. This month, hold on to April’s daisies, a symbol of childhood and innocence. Amazing Kids! encourages you to chase after your youngest dreams, your silliest aspirations, and your purest musings.

Sarah Todd Hammer started dancing when she was three. She was paralyzed from neck-down when she was eight. However, she refused to let her condition collapse her most beautiful dream. Today, she continues to dance and even choreographs her own routines. Her experiences have only strengthened her resolve to achieve.

Keep reading to find out more about Sarah Todd and her captivating dance with life!

Sarah Todd Hammer smiles for the camera, refusing to let her condition determine her happiness.

The Pirouette

In ballet, a pirouette is a whirl or spin, a complete turn of the body on a single foot that may seem to turn the world out of alignment to the unexperienced. However, those who dance know that the trick to the spin is spotting or the use of the eyes while turning to keep track of position and one’s center of balance. Similarly, sometimes life might seem to spin out of control and in these moments, it’s important to stay strong and balance.

Sarah Todd Hammer does a pirouette during her dance at Camp for Courageous Kids.

 

Sarah Todd was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis when she was eight. TM is an autoimmune spinal cord condition that made many things difficult for Sarah Todd to do. Her world might have ended then, for Sarah Todd loved dance and how could she dance when movement was now difficult? But she believed. She believed in herself, in life, and in dance and worked hard in therapy sessions to regain her ability to dance.

As a result, today she can successfully get through her days with some help from friends and family and continues to dance. Even though she no longer participates in a dance company, she dances every day at home to videos from her old dance company. Sarah Todd held on to dance for it is, in her words, “absolutely a huge passion.” Dancing allows her to express her feelings through movements and performing for others is always a thrill.

Even though TM continues to bring her challenges every day, she avoids focusing on them. Instead, she emphasizes how easily life can be taken for granted and how valuable everything she is still able to do is. Of course, she still gets upset sometimes, but that’s absolutely normal and when it happens, she reminds herself of all the positivity that has resulted out of this negative experience. She holds faith within her heart and that makes all the difference.

The Glissade

Dance isn’t just about the flashy finishing move though. So much of it is instead composed of connecting moves and preparation steps. The glissade is a traveling step used to link other steps together where the feet glide across the floor. Life is also made out of many small events chained together to create one glittering mosaic of experiences.

In the summer of 2014, Sarah Todd performed at the Camp for Courageous Kids’ talent show. She had recently gotten into choreography and spent a couple of months creating a dance to “Falling Slowly,” one of her favorite songs. After that, she spent even more time perfecting the dance, choosing a costume, and finalizing her performance. To her final performance, she gave the name “Adrift.”

The dance depicts a homeless girl trying to find her place in life, a search many of us have experienced at least once. Sarah Todd wore a brown-gray dress for the performance and did her hair in a messy bun. It was a big deal. It was her first solo ever and also her first performance since being diagnosed with TM. It showed her and others that medical conditions and other occurrences could not take away people’s dreams. Sarah Todd was still traveling and making progress towards her goals – she was still dreaming.

Two years before this very important performance, Sarah Todd met Jen Starzec. They became close friends after meeting and held common experiences due to TM. Writing 5K, Ballet, and a Spinal Cord Injury was Jen’s idea and the two ran with it. Each took turns writing about their experiences with TM and the result was a book with alternating chapters that was published in 2013. The book is currently available on Amazon Kindle and lulu.com and is Sarah Todd and Jen’s attempt to educate other TM patients and parents on how to deal with everything and maintain positivity.

Sarah Todd Hammer and Jen Starzec sign copies of their book for readers.

Their journey continues today and they are currently working on a second book titled Determination, a continuation of their first work. Armed with a more mature writing style, the two are ready to continue relaying a message of positivity, perseverance, and determination.

Sarah Todd is still gliding and sees herself reaching for the stars.

The Grand Jete

The grand jete is a large jete where the legs are thrown 90 degrees with a high jump. It is usually preceded by a preliminary movement such as the glissade and can give a brilliant flourish to any dance. Take leaps in life. Be unafraid to fall. If you do end up falling, resist the urge to stay fallen.

One day, Sarah Todd would like to be a best-selling author and/or choreography/dancer. She believes in the power of dreaming and she doesn’t plan on letting anything stop her. Amazing Kids! doesn’t think anything will and wishes her the best of luck in the rest of her dance with life.

Harry Styles from One Direction reads Sarah Todd Hammer’s book with enthusiasm.

Life is a fickle thing. Everything can change in a single minute and at times, we might feel suffocated or devastated. That’s what hope is for. April is the month of hope so remember to breathe and stretch your fingers towards the sky to grasp at wispy clouds and the silhouette of stars.