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How a dancer with Down syndrome made this couple want to do more for dancers with disabilities

Posted at 4:30 AM, Apr 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-17 06:50:20-04

FLORENCE, Ky. -- For Cody Hoban, there's nothing in the world better than dancing. The 22-year-old Florence native, who has Down syndrome, dances competitively in Sarasota, Florida, where his family now lives, and tries to keep in tip-top shape for every performance.

"I think what's so amazing about dance is he gets so much self-esteem from it," his mother, Kendall Gaddis, said.

When Gaddis learned she needed to spend six weeks in Cincinnati to complete a client's taxes, she and Hoban both knew they needed to find a place for him to keep practicing in preparation for an upcoming competition.

Enter Dance Manor instructor Josh Tilford, a nationally recognized ballroom teacher who agreed to help Hoban practice his choreography while he stayed in the Queen City. Tilford had never worked with a client who had Down syndrome before he met Hoban, he said.

"The first class, I was more reserved than him," Tilford said. "My wife works with children with Down (syndrome) and autism all the time, but it was a new experience for me. I didn't know how to act at first."

However, the pair quickly became fast friends, he said. Dancing with Down syndrome can be an additional challenge for both the dancer and their choreographer because people with Down syndrome have slightly different body structures than people without it; Tilford and Hoban had to meet each other in the middle to form a successful partnership.

"He's so awesome," Tilford said. "He's so excited about dancing. He's super fun -- really fun to work with. It's been an amazing experience for me because I've never done anything like this before."

But he hopes to keep doing it. Tilford and his wife, Stacy, said they are happy to tutor any person with a physical disability and a love of dance; Hoban's mother said she hoped other families would be as positively affected as hers had been.

"I'm a firm believer that you get what you give, and these people are just phenomenal," she said.