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Dance recital for an amazing cause

'It was a magical night'
2022 05 17 dance recital for Jack
A West Ferris Dance Class sports North Bay Battalion jerseys in honour of Jack Lyons. Photo courtesy Facebook.

Jocelyn Bell admits she is very proud of her senior dance class. 

The group kept an annual tradition going by hosting a senior dance recital which - aside from the COVID-19 years - helped raise money for a worthy cause within the community. 

"Dancing for a purpose allows them to move beyond what we do on stage so we always looked at it as an opportunity to get bums in seats and then you educate them in something that is important to our community and not-for-profit organizations," said Bell, a longtime dance instructor at Widdifield and West Ferris. 

But this year was a little bit different. On April 24, Jack Lyons, who was an avid hockey fan and had become the face of autism awareness in North Bay, passed away suddenly. 

Jack's sister Hannah is part of the class. That's when the purpose changed.  

"The class had selected a different charity but when Jack passed and with Hannah in our class, the kids wanted to do something to honour Jack and to recognize the Lyons family," said Bell noting that Jack's mother Lesley also works as a teacher at West Ferris. 

The students put on a special performance at West Ferris Secondary School. They even sported North Bay Battalion jersey's in honour of Jack Lyons who was a huge Battalion fan and a player whose initials are now worn on the helmets of the Battalion players for the playoffs. 

"They had a couple of months to get the show together but then the purpose last night for dancing - which had other performers as well not just my senior class - they had this two-hour show which gave them an opportunity to educate the audience about autism awareness and the importance of One Kids Place and that the money raised was going towards the playground that will be named in Jack's name," explained Bell.  

"I am so proud of them."

See related: Popular teen who became the face of autism awareness will be remembered

A total of $2,000 was raised which will go towards One Kids Place and a special park that will open soon in Jack's name.  

Katharine Strang has worked alongside Jack's father Mark Lyons in helping raise money to support autism awareness for more than five years. 

 See related: Father passionate about Light it up Blue

Strang admits speaking during this event was difficult and emotional.

"It was such a special evening and I love little Hannah and it was an amazing night to be a part of," admitted Strang. 

"Just with two classes of high school kids that put their brains to it and put their attention and support into this family, they raised $2,000 in an hour and a half, it was unbelievable. The equipment we are installing is state of the art and it will be amazing for these kids but it is not cheap.  Mark Lyons has worked so hard and tirelessly with me and this $2,000 puts us pretty much over $50,000 that we have raised for the backyard and we are excited that it is being installed shortly."

Bell says it was also a thrill to host live theatre in a high school once again. 

"It has been a long time for many people since they could go to a theatre and they came out and supported and they were really ready to be there for the Lyons family as well as for our students," said Bell. 

"It was a magical night.