It's not too often that the West Deptford School District draws more than a handful of parents for their presentations sprinkled throughout the school year.
So when the high school auditorium was packed the brim with more than 650 parents and kids, you knew it had to be something special.
With a beaming grin, a confident swagger and the smooth sounds of his saxophone, children's motivational speaker Reggie Dabbs took the stage at West Deptford High School on Wednesday night and put on a show that had kids and adults alike dancing, laughing and cheering. And while the event had plenty of laughs and fun stuff, it featured a ton of life lessons and lots of family bonding as well.
Dabbs, who gave presentations in the school district this week, captivated the audience on Wednesday night with a funny life stories, dancing, jokes and songs. Everything in his presentation, however, had a purpose. He revealed to parents that he wanted the kids to realize that there's a lot to live for in life.
“I'm tired of reading about kids giving up on the gift of life,” he told the audience.
The presentation was one of the most interactive that West Deptford School District has hosted. Dabbs invited both kids and adults on the stage at various times to help lead dances to the music. The audience danced and sang along to songs ranged from old favorites like Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" to new hits like Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe."
Dabbs' childhood story was very different from many kids. His mother gave birth to him as a teenager and had no home to take care of him in. She would find help in an old school teacher, whose family took in her son and raised him as one of their own. It was with his foster family that he learned the many life lessons and morals he tells kids about today.
“I remember what its like to hurt,” said Dabbs. “I don't want anyone to ever feel like that.”
Every part of Dabbs' presentation had a message or moral behind it. The kids were so captivated by the music and stories that the message seemed to really hit home.
“This morning, when I was talking at the high school, I saw some of your kids cry,” Dabbs said. “There were kids who had to go to a soccer game tonight. Some of them sent me texts and emails saying that they were sorry they couldn't make. They really wanted to hear me talk again.”
Dabbs' presentation was a joint effort between the school district, the PTO and the Youth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that arranges different types of presentations and assemblies for schools to help steer kids on the right path as they head into adolescence and adulthood.
“This is all about bringing the community together, bringing the family together and bringing resources together,” said Preston Centuolo, director of the Youth Alliance in New Jersey. “No one should have to live their life alone.”
Dabbs' popularity with the kids helped boost the turnout for Wednesday night's event. He gave his presentation in assemblies during the school day and many of the kids returned with their parents to hear him again. For a district that usually only gets around 20 people to come out to other presentations, it certainly was a huge success.
“I don't know if you know this, but not every community does this and not every school district does this,” said Dabbs to the audience. “You're very lucky that you have a community that cares.”
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