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When Ryan was 4 years old, he started dancing — and he loved it.

"I love dancing because it is a different language of expression like no other," he explains now. "Choreographers ... are brilliant storytellers."

As a kid, he knew dancing wasn't the "in" thing to do. He'd tell people he dreamed of being on Broadway, and sometimes they'd make nasty comments.


One day when Ryan was young, he asked, "Is it wrong for me to want to dance?"

But his mom Diane was always on his side. One day when Ryan was young, he asked, "Is it wrong for me to want to dance?"

"No," she said. "Go. Go dance."

Diane's been part of Ryan's story every step of the way: taking him to dance practices, watching every show, supporting his dreams in every way possible.

Diane and Ryan when he was a kid. Image via Wyndham Rewards.

And their dedication has certainly paid off — here's a look at the two of them before Ryan's recent one-night-only performance on Broadway.

Ryan is so proud that his hard work is paying off ... but he also knows he's still got a long way to go.

Ryan's performance on Broadway was part of The National High School Musical Theatre Awards (the "Jimmy Awards"). The Jimmys — named for Broadway theater owner and producer James M. Nederlander — celebrate outstanding student achievement in musical theater. Finalists get to perform on Broadway for a night, and many participants receive merit awards and college scholarships.

The Jimmy Awards recognize the best existing local arts programs, but they have also helped revitalize a passion for the arts in schools across the country. After all, who could pass up a shot at Broadway?

"The Jimmys is certainly a dream for a senior in high school, but my dream and goal for the future is to have a successful career in musical theater."

Needless to say, being a finalist in the Jimmys is a huge deal. And such an exhilarating experience. Ryan says, "getting that one night at The Minskoff Theatre was pretty special, and it's something I will forever be grateful for."

But he's not stopping there.

Ryan performs in a dance recital at a young age. Image via Wyndham Rewards.

Because for Ryan, dancing isn't just about making it to Broadway for a night. It's about being able to spend his life pursuing what he loves.

"The Jimmys is certainly a dream for a senior in high school," says Ryan, "but my dream and goal for the future is to have a successful career in musical theater."

He aspires to move his audience through dance — the same way that today's performers have moved him.

Ryan doing what he loves most: performing. Image via Wyndham Rewards.

Sure, it's always good to aim higher and dream bigger. But Diane, for one, couldn't be more proud of where Ryan is today.

Describing the night Ryan performed at the Jimmys, she says, "When he started singing ... well it was like a surreal moment in time, and no one and nothing else existed but that moment."

Way to go, Ryan!

Of course, it takes more than one awesome mom to revitalize the arts in schools. Support the arts! Every kid who loves to dance deserves a shot like Ryan.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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