YOUNG shoppers danced to an African beat when they took part in free workshops while helping to raise money for a charity centre which supports disabled young people and their families.
The high energy dance display marked the start of a series of special activities being staged at Eagles Meadow shopping centre over the long summer break.
The free events, entitled Passport to Africa, have been launched to coincide with the release of the Disney remake of The Lion King, currently on screens at the shopping centre’s Odeon cinema.
They are also helping to raise money and awareness of Dynamic, a Wrexham-based centre for children and young people with disabilities.
The events are running every Thursday and Friday for four weeks, up to and including Thursday August 15 and Friday August 16, from 11 am to 4 pm.
Visitors to the events, which will include crafts sessions and further dance and drumming workshops, will be transported to the plains of Africa.
The African cultural celebratory activities will culminate in an animal parade through the shopping centre on Friday August 16. Young shoppers will be encouraged to take part with the animal masks and musical instruments they have made at earlier craft sessions.
Shoppers Wendy and Rob Dodd enjoyed watching their three granddaughters, Lottie, 10, Maggie, five, and Alice, five, have a go at the African dance workshop.
The moment took them back to their own trip to South Africa earlier in the year during which they visited Johannesburg, Durban, Kruger National Park and Swaziland where they watched traditional Swazi dancing.
Wendy of Gresford Heath, Wrexham, said: “I think it’s brilliant. I am looking after the girls for a couple of weeks over the summer holidays and you are always on the look out for things like this for them to enjoy and it’s lovely to watch them having fun together.
“My husband has just told me that it had brought a lump to his throat watching them all have such a happy time dancing together.
“It’s great that it is also raising money for Dynamic and it’s important for the community to come together where they can to support such brilliant causes in our town.”
Her granddaughter Lottie Vallance said she had been very interested to take part because she was learning about African history and culture at her school – Wat’s Dyke CP School in Garden Village.
She said: “It’s been really entertaining and enjoyable. I loved the rhythm and beat of the dance and you just felt like you wanted to keep moving and dancing.
“I will tell my new teacher about it when I go back to school in September because we still have work to finish off about Africa.”
Stuart Bellis, Eagles Meadow Centre Operations Manager, said: “The African dance workshop has been a terrific way to kickstart our free summer holiday activities.
“It has brought such an energy to the shopping centre and it was great to see so many youngsters joining in. It certainly gathered a crowd.
“This is just the start of a fantastic summer at Eagles Meadow where families can come down and make the most of these free events, whatever the summer weather has instore.
“We have plenty on offer to keep the whole family entertained, from the activities themselves to the whole host of great shopping and leisure we have on offer here.
“What’s fantastic is that we are also able to use these free events to raise money and awareness of Dynamic – a fantastic local cause which thoroughly deserves our support because of the fantastic work they do with young people and their families in our community.”
Dynamic staff and volunteers were on hand at the event to collect donations and raise awareness about their cause which was set up in 1995 and has its centre on the corner of Salisbury Road in Hightown.
Some of Dynamic’s young people also came down with their Dynamic carers or families to make the most of the Eagles Meadow dance workshop.
The charity, which is partially funded by Wrexham Council but still needs to raise around £100,000 a year to stay open, provides out of school activities and training for children and young people with disabilities, aged between eight and 19.
The youngsters who attend have different disabilities including physical, intellectual or sensory impairments, emotional and behavioural issues or chronic illness.
It currently supports more than 100 young people by holding six weekly after school groups, a Saturday group, activities during school holidays and a major summer programme to support families during the long school break.
Carol Gardner, Dynamic Charity Manager, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Dynamic to be seen and heard about in the town centre – a chance for people to find out more about us.
“Many of our young people have enjoyed coming down to join in the event today and seeing our youngsters dancing away and enjoying the event is great. It’s important to us that they feel involved and a valued part of their community.”
For more information about the summer events, go to www.eagles-meadow.co.uk
For more information about Dynamic, go to www.dynamicwrexham.org.uk or Facebook @DynamicWrexhamCenter