Hometown Heroes: 'Just Cares' helps people 'Just Dance'

- Bryan Patterson doesn't remember a time when he didn't like to dance.

"I've loved to dance since I was little baby," said Bryan.

But it wasn't until recently that he really learned how.

"I do the hustle, the rumba and the fox trot. I just started learning the fox trot," said Bryan.

Bryan moves his feet every Monday night at the Just Dance studio in Lakeland, and it's all thanks to Just Cares, an organization giving people with physical, developmental and financial needs an opportunity to socialize and connect with the community.

"Sometimes they're not open or able to have a social life because of money, or they just don't have transportation, or they don't have somebody to provide them,” explained Maria Torres. “We do that for them.”

Maria is the founder of Just Cares, and Bryan's dance partner. She believes music and movement can make miracles happen. 

"I have seen people that could barely talk and had a hard time communicating, and now they socialize, they look for each other, they've become friends. Some have even become couples,” said Maria. “They all just love dancing. They just love being able to express themselves."

Bryan gets to show off his newfound confidence on the dance floor with Maria by his side.

"I was a nobody then. Now I'm everybody. I'm a dancer and performer," said Bryan.

But Maria doesn't take all the credit. She says none of it would be possible without the help of Just Dance owner, Kevin Rios, who allows Just Cares students to dance and learn in his studio for free.

"If we can leave some mark or difference, that's really what the whole purpose is supposed to be about," said Kevin.

The impact they have on their students is easy to see, from their smile to their feet. 

"Some people are just very grateful; they just love you. For somebody to just come to you and say ‘thank you; you changed my life’- it means a lot," said Maria. 

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