StarJam to keep bringing joy

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MAKING FRIENDS: StarJam’s Groove Getters from Ashburton include (from left) Jacob Olsen, Freddy Grieve, volunteer Belinda Brand, Ruby Hands, volunteer Nicola Algie, tutor Anna Bennett, Karina Webb, Lulu Webb, volunteer Mary-Jean Hart, Keiana Tuara and Oscar Spence.
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For more than 20 years StarJam has been providing music and dance workshops to youth with both physical and intellectual disabilities nationwide.

The organisation announced on Tuesday last week it was facing closing its doors in two weeks, after 22 years of advocating for people with disabilities.

In order to keep the doors open, supporters set a fundraising goal of $100,000.

StarJam chief executive Gilli Sinclair said earlier this week they had raised $165,000.

‘‘I’m absolutely thrilled that we have raised this. I just want to thank everyone who has given, it’s been incredible and people’s generosity has been amazing.

‘‘We have a long term strategy which will start in a few months, we just needed this bridging finance. We are moving from being 75 per cent reliant on grants to aiming to reduce this to 42 per cent,’’ Sinclair said.

The Ashburton branch of Star Jam opened in 2021.

StarJam ‘‘Groove Getters’’ Ashburton tutor Anna Bennett said she was pleased the organisation would now remain open.

‘‘There was such a good reaction to the appeal that with in two days they had exceeded the goal,’’ Bennett said

‘‘I come from a dance background and saw an advertisement for volunteers for the organisation and contacted them. I so enjoy being part of the StarJam, it’s so much fun,’’ she said.

‘‘We provide safe spaces for students to attend music and dance workshops. But it is more than that, it’s a community environment where they make friends and connections. It’s also a outlet for students to express their emotions through dance as some of our students are non verbal,’’ Bennett said.

For 90 minutes each week Bennett, three volunteers and the students check in on how each other’s week has gone, play games and enjoy music and dance.

The Ashburton group currently has eight members, but they have space for four more students.

Self and family referrals can be made through the website, starjam.org.

‘‘Our students cover a diverse spectrum of intellectual and physical disabilities.’’

Volunteer Belinda Brand has been with StarJam in Ashburton for two years.

‘‘I love seeing the children have fun, they build wonderful connections and it’s a lovely atmosphere to be part of,’’ Brand said.

‘‘The kids have the best fun and I get to act like a kid with them. The kids change the longer they are part of the programme, as they grow in confidence,’’ she said.