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Finding hope, joy for special needs people through Zumba

By Pablo J. Sáinz
La Prensa San Diego


When Lisbeth Garces moved to San Diego from her native Venezuela she never imagined she was going to start a non-profit organization here. Back then, in 1988, all she wanted was one thing: To find proper medical care for her 5-year-old son, Juan Carlos, who had muscular dystrophy.

She barely had raised the money to pay for plane tickets, she was a single mother, and she didn’t know English or anyone in San Diego.

But she had something very special: Juan Carlos, who had become her inspiration in life.

After years of therapies and treatments, Juan Carlos passed away in 1999, at the age of 15.

“Juan Carlos was the most special person I ever knew,” Garces said. “He was a smiling, good-natured boy who made friends easily. He and I went through so much together as I tried to find ways to support us, to help him have an active life, and to enable both of us to become fluent in English. I learned a lot from him.”

Something Garces learned from her son was to never give up.

“Even as his muscular dystrophy got worse, he never lost his kind and caring spirit,” Garces remembered. “I knew I would lose him before he became an adult, but it was devastating to me when he passed away. I fell into deep grief, but in the back of my mind I sometimes thought about finding a way to honor his memory for all that he gave me and others, making our lives richer.”

The best way Garces found to honor her son’s legacy was through the…

Featured Photo: One of the Zumba classes taught by the Juan Carlos Organization.

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