For people living with Down Syndrome, it can often be difficult to find places to work, go to school, and socialize. However, thanks to the kindness and passion of one valley resident, there is a special place for them to let loose and enjoy life.
Looking back over time, it isn’t hard for Carol Tingey to pinpoint where things changed for her, for what she calls the absolute better. While in high school, she was asked to be a leader for a group of special needs students being incorporated into her campus. She was tasked with helping them find their way on campus, watch out for them, and just be good leaders. It was something that interested her, so she decided to take part, hoping to help and serve the students in need. What she quickly found out was that it became so much more than she could have ever imagined. “I quickly learned it would be very different than I expected, I was the one who was taught and served by them. Many people in that class became dear friends to me and several of them, over 40 years later, are still in my life today.” These students she was just there to mentor have become part of her family’s lives and for that, Tingey says she is eternally grateful.
Years went by and after raising her own children, Carol decided to return to her life of working with people with Down Syndrome, but she wasn’t quite sure where to start. After giving it some thought, she realized that she wanted to start dance classes for her friends. “They all love music and dancing so much,” shares Tingey. “It started as just a way to get them together, helping to add some fun and friendships. I have seen that when my friends with Down syndrome age out of high school it’s harder for them to find classes that work. It’s harder to have social circles and fitness.”
That passion to bring everyone together evolved and Tingey created Hip Hop Homies (with Xtra Chromies). Upon creation, Tingey felt she was exactly where she needed to be. “Purposes were filled. The Homes have loved dancing together, being together, and being a team.” Not only do they take classes together, but they also get the opportunity to perform at some really cool venues. “We perform many places like high school assemblies, Suns/Mercury games, fairs, Special Olympics, weddings, and more.”
While Tingey says participating in all of these fun activities, she finds that the group enjoys when they can help the youth of the valley meet the group and not only see them dance but learn more about living with Down Syndrome and helping younger valley residents realize the amazing people the Homies are.”
When Tingey began the group five years ago, she wasn’t sure where it would lead or how it would grow. She also didn’t realize the lives and hearts that would be touched by this simple dance group. “From typical youth volunteers to audience members to families of our Homies and most importantly, for the Homies themselves, I’ve seen ignorance change to understanding, friendships made, support and help and belonging achieved. That has been so rewarding. I love people learning what I got to learn when I was in high school, and I love seeing the Homies so happy to have a community.”
One of the biggest challenges that Tingey has found is that while she wants to keep adding classes, giving more and more people the opportunity to participate, it takes financial backing to be able to do that. What that meant was she had to get creative. “So, I got organized and started a non-profit called The Home of the Homies. There is more we can do for these adults besides more dance classes, so we are always looking for ways to raise money and make that happen.”
For Tingey, the non-profit is there to help provide her friends with a place where they can find fitness, fun and fulfillment.
If you would like to get involved or donate money to help the Homies, you can find them online or on social media, homeofthehomies.org or @thehiphophomies
"Purposes were filled. The Homes have loved dancing together, being together, and being a team"