Have you ever had a dream that seemed impossible to achieve? I did, but I never gave up, and today, with the support of my friends and family, I’m living it.
My name is Carl Jason Garcia. I am a dance instructor, Special Olympics basketball athlete, bocce medalist, advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, and best of all – the life of the party!
I’m the youngest among 3 siblings and my family pampers me. My father serves in the Philippine Marine Corps, and my mother has a full-time job as well. When I was born, my aunt gave up her career to support my parents in raising me. As a child, my immunity was low and I came down with the bug often, but my family was thankful that I did not have any other major health conditions that were more common in children with Down Syndrome, such as heart defects and vision problems.
I am fortunate to have grown up in an inclusive environment where I was protected, well-loved, and surrounded by family and friends who believed in what I could achieve. They enrolled me in sports with Special Olympics almost 10 years ago, in my early teens. There, I met many fellow athletes with intellectual disabilities who faced bullying and discrimination in their communities, and who were isolated because of the perception that they are unable to contribute meaningfully to society. I want to show the world that this is not true.
In school, I didn’t excel academically. But I always knew my way around tasks that involved movement. I grew up with the dream of being a dancer and I knew in my heart that I was always meant to be one. In fact, I’m often told that my gift of dancing extends beyond performing, as I demonstrate the ability to engage people and let them follow the rhythm of my movement. It’s said that I’m a natural!
Dance gave me a way to express myself and the confidence to be who I truly wanted to be. When I hear music, my feet just start moving. People often stare, but I let them. It is who I am, and I’m not ashamed.
I didn’t know where to start so I began sharing my dance videos on social media. It wasn’t until my friends at Special Olympics stepped in that I got closer to my dream of becoming a dance instructor. They provided me training with a professional dance artist
– Krista Roma. My dance lessons are now the highlight of my week. I have learnt so much, and I look forward to meeting Krista every week to develop proper techniques and learn more dance styles.
I was also given the opportunity to showcase my talent and lead regular dance sessions with my fellow Special Olympics athletes in the Philippines. I gained confidence as a performer and a teacher. During the pandemic, I even conducted online Zumba lessons not just for the Special Olympics community in my country, but for participants from all over the world. I’m so glad to be able to use my gift to spread the message of joy and resilience through dance during one of the world’s most difficult times.
My personal mantra is, treat others the way you want to be treated. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Yes, kindness is the new cool. That’s why I always greet everyone, from neighbours to strangers at the mall. My friends joke that I wave at people as if I’m running for president! I don’t mind if strangers find it odd at first. It gives me happiness, and it sure brings a smile to their faces!
Dance brings joy to the world, and that is my purpose. For all who have a dream, chase it relentlessly and be brave in your attempt. Let your dream be bigger than your fears!