"My ability to contribute in any way possible to putting a smile on a kid's face [means] a lot to me," Chmerkovskiy tells PEOPLE
“I feel like I’m very blessed in my life, and I feel like a true blessing is not really real until you pass it forward, so my ability to contribute in any way possible to putting a smile on a kid’s face, it means a lot to me,” the ballroom dancer tells PEOPLE of his ongoing support of Dréa’s Dream, a pediatric dance therapy program.
The program – which was hosted Chmerkovskiy and some of his DWTS season 20 castmates at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles earlier this year – is funded by The Andréa Rizzo Foundation, a non-profit started by the mother of the foundation’s namesake.
“My daughter Andréa [was] as a pediatric cancer survivor. She went on to become a lifelong dancer and a special education teacher. She’d just begun her graduate studies in dance therapy at [New York University] and on May 19, 2002, she was killed by drunk driver,” says the foundation’s president and founder, Susan Rizzo Vincent.
To honor her daughter, Vincent helps organize events in hospitals and schools around the country where they use dance as therapy for children with cancer and special needs.
“Although her life was taken, her dream lives on through the pediatric dance therapy that we provide,” says Vincent. “This was her dream and this was what she wanted to do. So by doing this throughout the country, I feel as though we are filling her dream, and I think it would make her very happy.”
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Dancing with the Stars‘ 21st season premieres Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.