Cassandra Arellano fondly recalls several dance classes she took from Samantha “Sam” Ford at The Studio of Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande starting at age 7.
“I remember coming into the studio and having all my friends yell my name in excitement,” said Arellano, now 16. “We would go into class, and Sam would be the funniest person ever. She’d make a little joke before we started class. I remember when I was a little kid, leaving the studio was the biggest disappointment.”
Last year, Arellano was one of two students to receive scholarships in Ford’s name, created to honor the avid dancer, performer and instructor who continued dancing after her lower right leg was amputated as a young teen because of cancer, and even after the cancer returned when she was in high school.
Ford died at the age of 24 in 2010 from complications during her third bout with cancer. After her death, friends and family started an annual “Remembering Sam Ford” fundraiser.
In 2011, a scholarship was presented to 6-year-old Cheyanne Prelesnik for a year of free, unlimited dance classes. Last year, Arellano and 13-year-old Jadyn Tevino each received a $500 scholarship, which Arellano used toward entry fees for the LA DanceMagic competition.
A benefit concert will be held Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Branch Street Deli, 203 E. Branch St. Dancers from The Studio of Performing Arts as well as local musicians will perform.
The event is free; the business will donate 10 percent of all food and drink sales toward dance scholarships.
“I think it’s absolutely great because competition and dance is very expensive,” said Arellano, who started dancing at the studio when she was a year old in a “mom and me” class. She now takes about 14 classes a week, participates in the studio’s competition group, and is a member of Arroyo Grande High School’s dance company, where she’ll be a junior this year.
“I wish we could keep this going forever,” she added.
Ford also grew up dancing at The Studio of Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande, and dreamed of becoming a professional dancer.
Ford was diagnosed at age 12 with Ewing’s sarcoma, a childhood cancer that causes tumors, usually in the bones. She received treatment for the disease and was in remission for more than two years, but the cancer returned when she was a senior in high school. She then had intensive chemotherapy and stem cell treatment, continued dancing and became an instructor.
In fall 2009, Ford was diagnosed with leukemia. She died May 14, 2010.
“Sam was the sweetest girl I knew,” said Arellano, who hopes to become a social worker and teach dance classes on the side. “I love how comforting she was, and I just loved her outgoing personality. She was funny, and she was gorgeous.”