We met Theresa Cruz at our first Dance Teacher & Studio Owner Workshop in Chicago in 2013. She attended the workshop and the United Dance Merchants of America (UDMA) trade show in anticipation of opening her own dance studio. Then, we received a tragic email early the next week: leaving the weekend's event in her car, Theresa had been hit by a semi-truck.
We didn't see her again until the following year, 2014, back at our workshop. In a room full of energetic, flexible, movement-oriented instructors, she approached our team in a wheelchair. She caught us up on her recovery and expressed her gratitude for the crystallized lanyard we sent her. The accident had physically crippled her and caused Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Her visit was sweet and cheerful. We laugh now remembering how she told us her first thoughts after she was hit: “oh no- my crystallized lanyard is still in the street!” It meant a lot to us to know that- despite the negative associations she would be perfectly entitled to have, she had remembered our event as a positive memory. At the time of the accident, she was a 26 year old, a newlywed, and a dance teacher intending to start her own studio. No, she wasn’t teaching dance anymore when we saw her in 2014. The past year had been hard enough to concentrate on healing. Beyond the hours of surgery, the weeks in the hospital, the resulting migraines, nerve damage, vertigo, vision impairment, the post-traumatic stress disorder and the exhaustive efforts of physical therapy- beyond trying to piece back together a semblance of life before the accident- Theresa had been trying to process the loss of motherhood.
The TBI had cemented this loss of hope as it had disqualified her for adoption. Her attendance at the workshop, she admitted, was simply to be surrounded by the uplifting community of dancers she had been a part of the year before- in the last hours of being the woman she has been trying to get back to since. In 2015, Theresa came with the news that she had persevered in her dream to start a dance studio. Named after the Willow tree, “a symbol of flexibility, strength and resilience,” Willow Performing arts academy was built within Theresa’s own property to the highest standards of excellence. Echoing the support that Theresa has received from friends and family, the studio gives back to the community through monthly outreach projects. Though her story is already unforgettable, we’re sharing it now because we’re inviting you to help us support her. Her journey has been long and hard, and there is now news of even more hardship. In 2016 it became clear that our workshop had become more of a Theresa support event than a rhinestone workshop. We had Theresa update the ballroom full of attendees on her progress and we all enjoyed being witness to her incredible resilience. The purpose of workshop started to change that day as we realized that the fellowship of other dance teachers and studio owners is the most powerful part of the event, not the make & take or the wine & cheese. So… in 2017 Rhinestones Unlimited and Swarovski® invite you to join us Saturday October 14th from 8-10 pm for Sips and Sweets with Swarovski®. This event will take place at the Renaissance Schaumberg Hotel and Convention Center near Chicago and is less about workshop instruction and more about coming together for a night of fun and support! Swarovski will be present with their Fall/Winter Product Launch, we will have VIP Giveaways & Coupon Codes for those in attendance, a Crystallized Make & Take and Make-Up Demos by Yofi Cosmetics. The best part? We get to hear from Theresa, and show her our support. All event ticket sales go directly to Theresa Cruz. And, consider offering this couple additional support to reach our $10,000 goal by donating to a GoFundMe campaign we have started for them.