Debbie Van Assche-Gruhl is the owner of Dance Connection in East Moline. Debbie has been teaching dance in the Quad Cities area for over 30 years and students of hers describe her as a friend more than a teacher.
Debbie never turns down a student regardless of their financial situation. She has been known to put together fundraisers to help with cost or even hire moms to clean the studio in exchange for lessons. She has made both personal and financial sacrifice to insure every child gets a chance.
Former student, Julie Utz says Debbie treated every dancer with the same amount of love and attention.
“She’s proud of each and every one of those kids and some may not have been the best dancers, some are very good dancers but it doesn’t matter. She feels a sense of accomplishment when they learn just something as simple as a tap step,” Julie says.
That’s why Julie nominated Debbie for WQAD’s Pay It Forward. She was given $300 to award Debbie for all of her continued generosity. When Debbie was asked why she does what she does she said she just thinks everyone deserves a chance.
“I’ve been there,” Debbie says. “I am a self employed business owner, I know what it’s like to hurt financially and their kids deserve to have the opportunity to dance and perform, even if mom can’t afford it.”
Debbie wasn’t sure what she would do with all the money but she plans to take her husband out for a nice dinner.