Local man credits dancing for transforming his life

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ST. LOUIS - Dancing with the St. Louis Stars is in its 10th year.

The gala benefits the Independence Center which cares for adults with mental illness.

DeAndra Smith is a first-time dancer but he says he's not afraid to take the big stage that's because he says dance has helped transformed his life and he wants to help others just like him.

From the moment, he first laced up his dance shoes Smith says, "It just put me into the groove. I just went into my own little world."

Turn after turn it has been an incredible transformation for Smith with the Independence Center leading the way.

"I've been diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety and PTSD. When I first came to the independence center I came with nothing but the close on my back in the dead of winter and within a few months they helped me come so far that the least I can do is give back," he explains.

He'll be taking center stage at "Dancing with the St. Louis Stars" Gala which benefits the Independence Center.

Executive Director Mark Bethell says the funds will help cover services and programs like the clubhouse.

"Participating in something that gives them purpose allows them self-worth and that's a major part of the recovery process," says Bethell.

Step by step DeAndra and others learn patterns that will put them on a path towards a more successful future.

"This whole experience has helped me come up out of my shell," admits Smith."Dance is a lot bigger than we think. It's a big symbol for expressing ourselves and what we're doing in our life. And DeAndra is maybe the first person that I’ve maybe come across in my life to have the depth to be able to express that and create that," says dance instructor Emily Wehrman.

Dancing with the St. Louis Stars is on January 27th at 6 p.m. at Ritz Carlton in Clayton.


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