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Casey Kathleen Slayton managed to merge her two passions into her life’s work.
As a counselor in Philadelphia, she combined dance and movement therapy with psychology to help youngters get in touch with and express their feelings.
"She was a natural at working with children. She was a natural working with autistic kids," said her father, R. Duane Slayton.
Miss Slayton, 31, died Sunday, Sept. 10, of injuries suffered in a car accident near Pedee, Ore. She was visiting family in Oregon before she was to return to Philadelphia to work on a doctorate in dance therapy.
Miss Slayton was born in Hayward Wis., and began ballet lessons at 4. In 1984, the family moved to Hampshire, where she continued dancing. She attended Hope College in Holland, Mich., and pursued a double major in dance and psychology.
"She really was committed with a great passionn for the two fields," said Maxine DeBruyn, a professor at Hope. "She would go to the dance studio [alone] and just turn on music and dance to express herself."
Linda Graham, also a professor at Hope, concurred.
"She loved jazz dance. It was joyous, grass-roots dancing," she said.
Miss Slayton also competed in track and basketball. Her father recalled her determination to recover from an Achilles tendon injury that could have threatened her dancing. "She refused to be hobbled," he said.
She graduated from Hope in 1997 and moved to Philadelphia where she completed a master's degree in therapeutic dance movement at Drexel University. She began to work as a child therapist, often as an independent contractor for social service agencies.
Maureen O'Driscoll met Miss Slayton about four years ago whenshe came to her kindergarten class in a Philadelphia charter school.
"She was very in tune with kids and understood how and why they do what they do," O'Driscoll said. "She also worked with parents to give them strategies and tools."
They also shared a love of dance. "Whatever music was playing, we were dancing, whether there was a dance floor or not," O'Driscoll said.
Miss Slayton also had a connection with animals, said her mother, Judy, who raises dogs and horses in West Salem Ore.
Laura Bainbridge, a former roommate at Hope, said Miss Slayton found a stray cat during her sophomore year. Rules prohibited animals in dormitories, but Miss Slayton kept the cat for two weeks before persuading a friend who lived off-campus to adopt the animal, she said.
Miss Slayton's mother said her daughter left a lasting impression. "Everyone who met her took something away from her."
Other survivors include two sisters, Rebecca Diehl and Carrie; a brother, Matthew; a stepbrother; MAtthew Hochleutner; and her stepmother; Marcia Medina.
Hope College Department of Dance | 168 E. 13th St. | Holland, MI 49423