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Katie, the Zumba® Queen
Katie, the Zumba® Queen

On Christmas Eve 1990, in Yorkshire, England, Mary Higgins (age 46) was told her unborn baby was going to have Down syndrome. The doctor advised a termination. She said no, and five months later a little girl, Katie, was born. Young Katie Higgins is now 23. Despite her difficulties, last autumn she became a Zumba® instructor. She had already learned how sign for deaf people and show school children how to do it too. When Craig, Katie’s brother, died of cancer, "This changed everything," says Mary. "I knew I had to either go to the doctors for pills for my grief or do something to make life bearable for us all." She began Yoga-Pilates then Zumba® Fitness Classes. "I loved it right away although afterwards I was very upset at myself that I’d been jumping up and smiling and singing although Craig has just died. Then I realized that it was what Craig would have wanted. Katie used to ask me at times 'Did you enjoy it?' I used to say 'No, I didn’t enjoy it. I loved it!' Amanda Laycock, the Zumba® instructor, suggested Katie should come with me and sign to our music. She did. Then one night Amanda announced “I think you ought to do more than this, Katie.” Amanda then starting giving Katie special classes, on her own. "I just watched - with amazement," Mary remembers. "From then on, there was just no holding Katie back." In summer 2012 Katie passed her exams. Her teacher Caroline Parsons wrote to the world via the Zumba® forum to say this day had been extra-special because Katie had done so well. Now, at classes at Halifax College and Elim church in Sowerby Bridge, Katie is on the stage. She teaches Zumba® and everyone follows her. Mary reveals that "The first time Katie did it I heard her crying in the bathroom afterwards. They were happy tears, but relief after the strain too. And now when I see Katie do it I so well I fill up with tears. I can’t believe she is doing this. Craig would have been so proud. And I can’t take credit, it was Amanda who had that early confidence in Katie. Katie practices a lot at home now. I can’t join in with her because the CDs are for instructors like her, not for me. I feel really proud that the she’s now better than me at something. Mind you, I’m 70 this year, she’s only 23! What I have taught Katie is nothing to what Katie has taught me!"




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Delayna Skadorwa, United States, WA
3/18/2014 3:49:08 PM
Way to go Katie! You're an inspiration to me (I'm a Zumba instructor) and my daughter who has Down syndrome. Love and hugs! Macie (6) and her mom, Delayna.

Jeanne Dallahi, United States, NH
7/4/2013 10:04:00 AM
Congratulations, Katie! I am a Zumba Instructor, too, and I take my 8 year old daughter (Amina, who has Down syndrome too) to my classes sometimes and we both love Zumba! You are so inspiring - keep up the great work!

George Archer, France,
7/4/2013 5:17:14 AM
I had the honour of meeting Katie at the ZIN Day UK (Zumba® Instructor Network National get together) last year and she truly is an inspiration to all. No matter what your situation, you can pull through and reach your goals! Keep on going Katie and I hope to see you again soon! All my love George x

Andrea De Jesus, France,
6/21/2013 7:52:41 AM
I'm so proud of you ! Zumba go!

Deborah Mulderrig, United Kingdom,
6/21/2013 5:45:39 AM
Well done Katie, you are an inspiration xxx

Allison Hodgson, United Kingdom,
6/21/2013 5:35:01 AM
Katie you are a true inspiration to everyone out there. It just goes to show that anyone and everyone's dreams can come true. I'm so glad and happy to have met you and love the fact that we are friends. I wish you all the best for the future :) xx love from Allison xx. Where do I even begin to sum up Amanda Laycock, you are an amazing person with a gigantic heart with enough love for everyone and anyone anywhere. You are truly an inspiration yourself and an amazing friend. Its amazing how your life pans out and if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be who I am today. Amanda you are a shinning star(just like an angel) and I thank you with all my heart. Xx Luv ya :) xx

Lesley Lace, United Kingdom,
6/21/2013 4:25:54 AM
I have the great pleasure (and honour) of knowing Katie and her mother Mary. I met Mary when I went alomg to the same Zumba fitness class as her - she smiled and spoke to me and was extremely friendly - I liked her immediately! Then I found out that she had recently lost her son to cancer. Mary and Derek's daughter Katie is a true inspiration - she shows such tenacity and determination! I should like to add that her parents must take a lot of credit for their unconditional love and support of Katie; Derek and Mary recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and where not able to go away together for a break as katie's needs are so great. I know that Mary and Derek are extremely grateful to Amanda Laycock for all her encouragement and support of Katie; she is another example of a selfless person with a lot of love to give!

Linda Harper, New Zealand,
6/20/2013 9:17:45 PM
Love this story and the awesome video you made for David's birthday. hope to meet you on my UK trip next month xx

Samantha Hendy, United Kingdom,
6/18/2013 5:19:42 PM
Amazing story - what a fantastic achievement from such a fab young lady. She is an inspiration to many.

jennifer de jesus, United States, MA
6/18/2013 12:37:36 PM
so in spirational

Yanitza quiles, United States, MA
6/18/2013 9:07:32 AM
Go Katie!

Brian Laycock, United Kingdom,
6/16/2013 5:09:14 PM
Well done Katie and Amanda it is a credit to you both to have achieved so much and been such a great inspiration to others, we are very proud of you . Brian and Rosie

Lynda Fieldhouse, United Kingdom,
6/13/2013 7:26:08 PM
Lovely story. well done Katie and Amanda

Jacque Webber, New Zealand,
6/12/2013 6:51:34 AM
Inspirational, uplifting and motivating - great work!

Kelly Bullard, ZES, United States, WI
6/12/2013 12:54:27 AM
VERY inspiring for all of us! :)

Lorena B, Canada,
6/11/2013 3:39:54 PM
You are a true inspiration! We are honoured and fortunate to have you as part of our Zumba Family!

Lynn Stinson, United Kingdom,
6/11/2013 9:48:43 AM
Go Girl!

Bernie Stinson, United Kingdom,
6/11/2013 4:04:01 AM
I can't even DO Zumba, let alone teach it! Brilliant!

Elizabeth Whiteley, United States, CT
6/10/2013 10:00:09 PM
What an inspirational story! I am a music educator who is also a Zumba instructor, and I have a special place in my heart for all of my students with special needs. I will definitely be sharing Katie's story with my colleagues. I know they will truly appreciate the lessons we can all learn from her.

Cely Santos, United States, MA
6/10/2013 9:24:42 PM
What an inspiring story!!! That's what love is all about. Amanda & Katie, we need more people like you...you truly have touched many lives. Thanks you so much for sharing your great story. Weeeepaaaa, ooah, ooah...I'm in the zumba mode!!

Christine LaRoche-Alvarez, United States, MA
6/10/2013 8:36:41 PM
YES!!!!!! THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING STORY!!!!!! This just proves that you can do ANYTHING when you put your mind to it. And more importantly you can do anything you have a TRUE passion to do. Truly amazing journey and beautiful and powerful message!!!! You are such an inspiration to ALL zumba and fitness instructors out there! And a huge Kudos to Amanda Laycock for recognizing how special and talented you are. That's a sign of a GREAT instructor. Keep on smiling and inspiring others!!! Sending you LOTS of love from MASSACHUSETTS!!!!!! <3

Ann Swan, United Kingdom,
6/10/2013 2:50:02 PM
As a Zumba Fitness instructor myself, I know how difficult it is to start out and have the confidence to get up on stage and teach. It takes a lot of time and dedication to learn new routines for your classes. I'm totally inspired by Katie and hope she gets to join us all in Orlando for the Instructors Convention this year.

Pat Gomersall, United Kingdom,
6/10/2013 2:08:47 PM
Well done Katie, what a fantastic achievement x.

Oli Palmer, United Kingdom,
6/9/2013 1:09:45 PM
An amazing achievement, congratulations!

Stephanie Revill, United Kingdom,
6/9/2013 6:10:09 AM
Katie is an inspiration to all in our Zumba Family ! She is absolutely fab and makes it fun - Mary you are a proud Mum. She has achieved so much and it's thanks to Amanda -you have done such a great job with Katie and also for introducing her to me as a beautiful friend. I love you both x

Jan Kikezos, United Kingdom,
6/9/2013 3:11:47 AM
This is such an inspiring story and so very typical of Amanda Laycock who I had the pleasure of working with for two years. Amanda is so proud of Katie and all she has achieved. Amanda is a true hero in her own right having used Zumba to raise thousands of pounds for the British Heart Foundation. She has also been seriously injured and unable to dance for the last 10 months but, despite this (and nothing could be worse for Amanda- she IS dance!) she has made sure everyone she knows knows what Katie has achieved.

Hector Batista , United States, FL
6/8/2013 10:12:19 AM
Truly amazing and inspirational story as Katie and Amanda are truly amazing individuals, your story will inspire so many to never underestimate the reach and power of their spirit. Keep on dancing!

Paul Levey, United Kingdom,
6/8/2013 9:59:41 AM
An absolutely inspiring story....congratulations to all concerned

Amanda Laycock, United Kingdom,
6/8/2013 6:39:32 AM
Kate Palmer thank you for bringing us your wonderful daughter Helen, my childhood best friend. Helen may no longer be with us but she is here inspiring the Katie's of the world. I still miss her so very much she will forever be my focus for the future of the Many that will be inspired by her. We love you Kate xxxx

Kate Palmer, United Kingdom,
6/8/2013 5:59:37 AM
It just shows what you can achieve regardless of what life throws at you.

Amanda L Laycock, United Kingdom, NY
6/7/2013 7:47:12 PM
I am so blessed and humbled by so much and so many. Any of my students through Dance and Zumba that have and are living there lives, from the heart and following the dreams,  I admire you with all my heart and Thank you for always.  I can only try to give them the tools or connections In life. My family have been so supportive as have my fellow ,Zins, Zjs and Zes's and our Zumba community.  Katie YOU have done this, it's come from you, you accept, trust and believe and I am so honoured to be by your side on your amazing journey it's so much fun.  Zumba Fitness is an amazing company as it's  inclusive to all and I am so grateful to have found my Zumba instructor Christine La Roche Alverez in Chicopee MA. Look what you have inspired Christine and none of this would of been possible without the love and dedication from Mary and Derek & most of all OUR community leader David (Thanks mum, Dad and Grandma Joyce for believing in me I heart you all) 

Nelson Barnes, United States, MA
6/7/2013 5:06:42 PM
I have not met Katie personally, but have spoken to her via phone. She is truely an inspirational young woman and a true role model to be followed by all. What a pleasure to see what she has acheived. She is my inspirational role model whom I will meet some day.

Susan Pittaway, United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 4:09:55 PM
I would like to vote for Katie because she's such an inspiration to all of us especially here in a little town called Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, UK. Amanda Laycock can and does inspire everyone she meets. Amanda's enthusiasm and Zest for life is what makes our Zumba sessions special. She really is about community and equality for all. Thank You to Amanda..............who in turn inspired Katie and hopefully many more around the world........ Susan P

Mary Higgind, United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 3:07:04 PM
We are so proud of Katie, we hope this will Inspire others like Katie to Zumba and Enjoy the fun. Mum and dad x

sue deakin, United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 12:38:41 PM
Such an inspiration, really glad Katie is going for her goals in life, love you Katie.sue dxxxxx

Dee Dee Walko, United States, NH
6/7/2013 12:25:44 PM
Amanda and Katie's story is amazing! Amanda is an awesome, beautiful, generous and kind person. She has amazing talents and has a beautiful soul.

Julie Whiteside, United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 12:04:52 PM
Fantastic story , go for your goal and it shows You can achieve anything. This story will Inspire a lot of people to get out their and have Fun excersieing join the party

Helen Payne, United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 12:04:39 PM
What an emotional & inspiring story! I've got a daughter who has learnt some sign from Katie at her primary school & I've danced with Mary & under both Katie & Amanda's instruction. They've both touched a lot of lives & hope they all realise how special they all are to many people. Well done ladies x

Alex Henry , United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 10:09:17 AM
Inspiration to everyone, love Katie, met her in November absolute darling... Good luck and vote vote vote xx

Maz Pennington, United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 8:22:36 AM
Yes. You can.

Ana Sampaio , United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 4:48:14 AM
Thank you Katie...for wake me up from the fear and remember me that its ok to be or do whatever we want even when the world don't believe you can YOU ARE MY HERO!!! Lots of Zumba Love

Gillian A Laycock, United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 3:08:28 AM
I am Amanda's mum and of course i am going to vote for Katie...we need more Katie's and Amanda's in this beautiful world of ours. Good Luck to everyone who's stories are equally worth winning.

gina fry, United Kingdom,
6/7/2013 1:56:09 AM
I have a downs client in my classes who I shall buy the magazine for, this is so inspiring. However, there are a few grammatical errors in the story which should be corrected if it gets picked. I counted three obvious ones.

Jeanie Franzo, United States, NJ
6/6/2013 9:46:29 PM
Wow Katie I am so inspired by you. A young woman just came to my class this week, I believe she has Down Syndrome too, yet she came all on her own to her very first zumba class with me. I hope and pray she comes back, I think she had fun and will. Hearing your story has inspired me to give her extra encouragment. You Go Girl!! Jeanie

Arelys, United States, NY
6/6/2013 9:37:40 PM
Truly inspirational!

Judy James, Australia,
6/6/2013 7:51:29 PM
What a wonderful and inspiring story! Any thing is possible. Katie, Mary & Amada you all ROCK!!! Much love from Down Under xxxx

Lee Conlon, United States, MA
6/6/2013 7:34:50 PM
What a wonderful story about empowerment and physical fitness!! How great to see a reversal of the usual roles assigned for people with differences!! Much credit goes to Amanda for seeing ability instead of disability!

David L Topel, United States, FL
6/6/2013 6:50:07 PM
I have had the privilege of meeting Katie (as well as Mary and Amanda) and have felt her passion and enthusiasm. She is a champion, inspiring thousands of our Zumba instructors as she moves along her journey. Thank you for your courage and pure joy Katie. YOU are my hero. With love and respect, David Topel, Community Manager, Zumba Fitness, LLC.

Roy Wickham, Germany,
6/6/2013 6:48:04 PM
Well Mary & Katie, you got this ol' Zumba® guy smiling big style with this awesome story! Great happy tears too.

janet Smith-Harrison, United Kingdom,
6/6/2013 5:46:18 PM
Ive been in Katies classes and she is amazing! She makes you work that's for sure, as well as making the tracks fun and enjoyable. I feel privileged every time I share her talent and enthusiasm. We love you Katie xxx

jo-an davison, United Kingdom,
6/6/2013 5:22:49 PM
love the story sat here crying you are so brave and such an enjoy to do zumba with katie and you are a very young expiring lady love you all x love jo jo

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