Growing up Richard Williams admits being called many things but quitter was never one of them.
So when the Penticton contractor heard about some young local dancers who were about to miss the trip of a lifetime he decided to step in and help make their dream a reality.
Not only did he give them just over $10,000 to help pay for the trip but some advice as well.
“They’re just amazing girls and they have done so much for the community and I just wanted to let them know they should never give up, ever,” said Williams, whose small company does work for Interior Roofing. “When you look back, it doesn’t matter who you are, somebody has been there to help you when you were down, someone has pulled you up to keep going.
“They are never going to forget this trip and will want to give back themselves so this is just a way for me to touch so many lives in the future, that makes me proud, it makes me glow.”
The girls aged 12 to 19 from Get Bent Yoga, Dance and Wellness Centre, were scheduled to catch a flight from Penticton Regional Airport on their way to Toronto today (March 30).
For five months the dancers did whatever fundraising possible to save the $13,000 needed but with just a week to go were still a long way from reaching their goal.
Late last year they received an invitation to the International Blossom Bellydance Conference and Festival with other dancers from around the world, not only to perform, but as the only youth group to speak to those attending.
So important is their attendance that the event organizer, after hearing about the financial difficulties, waived all conference fees.
On the night he spoke to the girls about his plans to help, Williams first told them about his experience as a teenager overcoming what he believed were insurmountable odds not only to attend an event but to win.
“When we were standing on the podium my instructor looked directly at me and she said remember I told you, never give up, the words I can’t do it should never exist,” he said. “In my life I’ve had some ups and downs and I’ve learned to dig down deep and never quit, these girls will do the same.”
Nicole Chickloski was one of the dancers at the meeting, she admitted being a little surprised at who their benefactor was.
“He definitely didn’t look like someone who would even care about this kind of stuff, so it shows that appearances don’t really matter, it’s what’s inside your heart,” she said about Williams gruff exterior. “This has definitely changed my perspective on everything, just walking down the street now I think about how I can help people.
“He showed us that in life there is always going to be a struggle but if you just keep going and believe there are people to help you get through it no matter what.”
Her dance mate Jazlyn Humpheries agreed: “This is just so incredible, It’s not that I didn’t have faith in all of us, it is just it did not seem like it was probably going to happen.
“This is definitely something I’m sure we will all pay back.”
Wendy Goudie, who co-manages Gent Bent, with husband John remembers the emotion in the room when Williams announced his intentions.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. It was incredible. I know him (Williams) from classes — he’s not ‘made’ of money,” she said. “This is wonderful, little Penticton has a really incredible niche in the belly dance world and to be invited on the world scale as a major performer at such a huge event is really a big deal.”
As repayment, Williams told the dancers to: “Not worry about winning or losing but to give 110 per cent, have fun and never give up.”