Happy Feet: Dance instructor expands her lessons to include Puerto Rican recovery

In the last few weeks, news stories and pictures have flashed television screens and newspapers nationwide about the devastation tropical storms and other disastrous events sweeping over the world, including many in Texas and along the Florida coasts and islands who have lost everything and are still in the midst of starting over.

Relief efforts are assisting, including NFL star JJ Watt raising millions of dollars for Texas and even local organizations such as Kaden’s Kloset, a local organization that helps to provide necessities for foster and adoptive children and families, that took donations of food, water, etc.

Mary Friedrich, who is a a secretary of for the University of Northern Iowa Dining Administration, wanted with to help with relief efforts too.

She said she thought Zumba would be a perfect way to incorporate something she loves in order to help those in need in Puerto Rico.

“Zumba is my passion, and it is what I do in the evening and on weekends,” Friedrich said.

Friedrich teaches a Zumba class at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Sundays, Tuesdays and Saturdays and at First United Methodist Church on Thursdays. The times are pinned to her Facebook group page, Zumba with Mary.

“I teach community-based, non-membership Zumba Fitness, Zumba Toning and Low Impact Zumba with Toning classes.”

Friedrich first came up with the idea through music and her influences in teaching her Zumba class.

She said many of the artists she first started listening to and teaching with Zumba included Ricky Martin, Luis Fonsi, Don Amar and many more.

Friedrich also said she has a diverse class population who remind her that we are all bigger than a small town and can make a difference.

“We are connected worldwide. I believe that when you have more than you need, that you build a bigger table, not a higher fence.”

The class costs only $2 and through the month of October all the money that is collected and donated will be sent to the relief efforts in order to help Puerto Rico. Friedrich also said they will be having a Zumba class Halloween costume party, and she will announce total funds raised at the end of the month.

“My heart is full after each and every class,” she said.

Friedrich said she had started as a free class to make the class accessible for everyone to enjoy as carefree fitness class with no upfront fees.

“Then my students insisted that I ‘charge’ a fee for class. That is when I came up with the idea of a ‘donation only’ class,” she said.

Friedrich said she wanted her class to be seen as welcoming and easy-to-follow, where there is no gym-intimidation. Her intent is to dance off the stress of the day, feed the body and soul — and the rest is just exercise-in-disguise.

Friedrich had enjoyed taking Zumba classes for nine years, and after she got her own license to teach, she said, “The rest is history.”

She has now been teaching her Zumba class for five years.

Because Latin music, fitness and dance is a big influence for Friedrich, she is also involved in a Salsa group, takes belly dance classes and enjoys learning and experimenting with other dance styles whenever she can.

“I am so happy to have found something that not only is fitness-based that I love, but also fills my spirit more than one can imagine,” she said.

In just the first week of October, Friedrich and her students have raised just over $400, and she said she hopes that it will only keep growing.

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