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Natalie's Everyday Heroes: 'Above the Clouds' founder Linda Wade

NOW: Natalie’s Everyday Heroes: ’Above the Clouds’ founder Linda Wade

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- “Above the Clouds” is an organization that has been offering high quality art and dance classes for kids in Milwaukee for the past 18 years—and they do it all for free. Founder Linda Wade got the inspiration to create her organization from an unusual place.

Wade didn’t start dancing until she was 30. She said she was often sick, but once she found ballet, she loved it.

“I just could see how I felt after each class,” she said. “Yes, it was hard, but I loved it.”

Her dance company visited prisons in Texas, performing and speaking with inmates about what brought them to that point in their lives.

“We would go to death row,” Wade said. “We'd go to protective custody and I was one of two dancers.”

Wade said she got the idea for “Above the Clouds” while returning from a trip.

“I knew I wanted to start an arts program. I didn't know what it was going to be called and we were over the clouds and that's where we got our name, “Above the Clouds,” she said.

Since then, the organization has soared. It offers ballet, martial arts, hip hop, modern dance, and spoken word to between 460-600 kids each year.

“They walk away with a sense of pride,” explained co-founder, Barbara Melsheimer. “I did something. I accomplished something.”

On a recent week night, the ballet studio at “Above the Clouds” dance space on N. Teutonia Avenue was crowded with new students starting fall classes. In the room next door, students were eager to learn hip hop dance.

“They come running in here, ready for class, they don't want to miss a class,” Wade said with a laugh.

The classes draw kids from all over the city. The classes are free, but there aren’t any income requirements. Wade said they attract a diverse group of children.

“They meet children who are from different areas, different background, different races,” she said. “We have a good mix of children from all over the city.”

Melsheimer said that’s the mission. “Above the Clouds” aims to help kids connect with their creativity and with each other.

“I think they take away something they didn't expect,” Melsheimer said. “It's more than they thought it was going to be.”

Wade agreed. The organization focuses on hiring the best instructors for the students, too.

“We didn't want anything to limit the children. We wanted them to reach for as high as they could,” Wade said.

“Above the Clouds” has reached 7,300 kids in Milwaukee since it started. For more information on classes and how to join, just visit http://www.abovethecloudsmilwaukee.com/home.html.

If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, just send Natalie an email at nshepherd@cbs58.com. We’d love to hear about someone doing good work in your community.

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