Susan Rizzo Vincent, author of Dréa s Dream: An Unfinished Dance and founder of The Andréa Rizzo Foundation, has provided hope, comfort, and inspiration to countless individuals through her book, chronicling the experience of her and her daughter Andréa’s overcoming of childhood illness only to be separated by an unforeseeable tragedy (read the review), and through the foundation she founded in Andréa’s honor, which helps children with cancer and special education needs. Ms. Rizzo Vincent is a truly remarkable woman, helping others to heal by sharing her story and making Andréa’s dreams of helping children through dance therapy come true.
I feel extremely honored Susan Rizzo Vincent recently took some time to talk to me about Dréa s Dream: An Unfinished Dance and The Andréa Rizzo Foundation for a feature here on The Daily Quirk. Read on for the interview…
The Daily Quirk: What made you decide to write Dréa s Dream: An Unfinished Dance? Was it to reflect on your journey or to help others going through similar tragedies?
Susan Rizzo Vincent: It was for two reasons. The second one was absolutely right. It was to help others through similar journeys and challenges. Also because of Andréa herself; it was her idea to write the book about our journey together. Through her surviving childhood cancer, overcoming learning disabilities and feeling as if she was possibly able to inspire someone else to say: no matter what your challenges are go for it. It was really her idea for us to write a book and I started doing the writing when she was very much alive and I was able to share that whole first section with her cancer experience, in the hospital. Which she couldn’t remember. She was only a baby. So I was so glad. She had just started her first teaching job or just finishing up Salve at the time so I went ahead and got going on it. I was able to share that whole part about being at Sloan-Kettering with her. It was very emotional when I shared it with her. So it was her desire to help people and of course my desire to help people when the ending ended up being very different than what I had been expected to be writing about.
TDQ: How long did it take you write?
SRV: Well really and truly the first section I began when she was very much alive, so probably 12 years ago. And then because I was a full time teacher up until June 2011 I just kind of wrote little bits and pieces and of course those were after her death. I wrote them on my Christmas vacations. I retired in June 2011. That whole year summer 2011 through summer 2012 I finished the majority of the book in that one year. And then it was released in October of 2012.
TDQ: You share so much of yourself in this book. Was there any part that was particularly difficult for you to write?
SRV: The most difficult part to write was the part about the accident. When the accident occurred. And writing those moments. I remember sitting in the Narragansett Public Library. They had a quiet room there. And I would go there every Friday. That was part of my writing schedule. I remember sitting there and having to really put myself in those moments. And feel every one of those moments in order to describe it. So that was really the hardest part of the book to write.
TDQ: What is the number one thing you would like readers to take away from the book?
SRV: I want them to take away from the book that when you are facing a challenge that you should really number one remain open to the love that surrounds you and supports you. And let it give you strength so that you can take your experience and use it to find meaning and purpose in your life and helps others.
TDQ: Through this book you’ve helped so many others find hope and healing. Has it helped you as well?
I would say that the book has helped me to heal in that number one I feel as though through my entire grieving process – which of course when you lose a child –it really truly never ends. But through that process of grieving receiving support from others has been important. But also, because I began this foundation I have always felt that Andréa and I remain a team. In writing this book I really felt as if her strength and her message of never give up was really very much ever present and we remained a team throughout the writing of the book. I guess I felt, it helped me remain close to Andréa. That feeling that she’s still here with me. We’re still a team.
TDQ: Can you please tell our readers a little bit about The Andréa Rizzo Foundation? What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the foundation?
SRV: My hope for the future of the foundation is that we will be able to provide Dréa’s Dream Dance Therapy Programming in every state in the country. We are in nearly twenty sites, schools and hospitals throughout the country. My hope is that we will be able to touch the lives of children with cancer and special needs nationwide. And at the same time one of the most beautiful things that has come out of the foundation is that we’ve gotten to support so many young dancers who understand the power of dance. And through that I have been able to create wonderful relationships with young people who have their own passion for dance and who have a desire to help others. It really just ignites in me a feeling that we are making a difference together. So my hope is to be able to reach every dance school, every dancer that we will become you know a very familiar cause for dancers. It will be the cause that every dancer wants to support.
Because again, it’s not about – and I say this honestly – it doesn’t really feel like fundraising. Because there is nothing I hate more than asking for money. I was an elementary school teacher my whole life and so this is an area that’s not my strength. So instead what I’ve done is I’ve created beautiful relationships that are based on passion. It’s the dancers who come to us and say that they want to make a difference. By helping them to make a difference it just makes me feel great. I would love for that to become huge. It’s definitely recognized by many big dance organizations, but I would like it to become just universal.
It’s a beautiful way for dancers to unite for a worthy cause, combine their passion with their love of dance, so it’s really something from their hearts. That’s our tag line: Let your heart move your feet. That truly resonates with them. They want to let their heart move their feet for kids with cancer and special needs and we do it together.
TDQ: How can readers who want to support the foundation get involved?
To learn more about Dréa’s Dream, visit www.dreasdream.org