Auburn University theatre professor Jeri Dickey is enlisting her students to help raise awareness and funds for a cause close to her heart: Cystic Fibrosis research. The students will join The Montgomery Ballet for a televised benefit concert—Dance To Breath: A Benefit For Cystic Fibrosis—October 11th at Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery.
Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic lung disease, is the number one genetic killer of children and young adults in the United States, and affects two of Dickey’s four children, Jerod and Jillian.
The Dickey’s cope with the daily rigors of living with CF. The family first faced the illness when Jerod, now 16, was diagnosed at age 2. At the time, Dickey says she knew very little about the disease. “I saw the word fatal and I thought my son was handed a death sentence,” she says.
As she learned more about care and treatment, Dickey says she that CF wouldn’t have to define her family, not even Jerod and Jillian, who are both very active.
Jerod plays baseball for Auburn High School. Jillian, 11, is an all-star cheerleader and dancer. Staying active helps to thin out the mucus that can clog their lungs. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the current average life expectancy for a person with CF is “late 30s.”
Dickey has danced most of her life, both professionally and as a form of personal expression. Since 1999 she has used dance to share her story in order to help raise CF awareness, and to hopefully find a cure.
She planned her first dance benefit when Jerod was diagnosed. The tradition grew while living she lived in her home state of Ohio and she’s continuing it in Alabama.
Dickey will be the keynote speaker at the national Cystic Fibrosis Conference in Atlanta in March, speaking on how she uses art to cope with the stress of the illness.
“I couldn’t deal with this without expressing myself, and dance does that for me,” she says.
This year, Dickey will perform a dance with her daughter, Jenna, who also dances professionally at Montgomery Ballet, meant to convey the effects of CF on the entire family.
She says she hopes the performance will raise funds for research in order to help to make “CF truly mean Cure Found.”
Dance To Breathe will be held Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at Frazer United Methodist Church, which is located at 6000 Atlanta Highway in Montgomery. Shanna Henderson, one of Dickey’s former students and star of The Glee Project: Season 2, will make a special guest appearance. Donations benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will be accepted at the door. For more information, visit the Dance To Breathe Facebook event page.
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