Altoona, PA – A local man and woman, both of whom are on the autism spectrum, have recently won Johnstown’s Dancing with the Stars for Autism contest.
Lauren Topor and Tom Leap, a couple who competed in the event together, have won the competition’s top prize for a tango that they performed to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Topor and Leap initially met after Leap’s family began a social group for individuals on the spectrum when he was diagnosed at the age of 21. Up until then, both had struggled socially and were frequently targets of harassment and bullying by their peers.
However the couple reveals that they had longed to make friends and be included in social activities with their peers, yet after meeting and subsequently becoming a couple, they developed close friendship of their own. They thus decided to train for their dance at Sherry Lynne’s Ballroom Dance Studio and credit staff members there for developing their routine which resulted in their win.
However both Leap and Topor state that their focus wasn’t on winning and that they chose to compete in the event for altruistic reasons. The couple state that their motivation was ultimately to have the opportunity to inspire others with ASD to strive to not only triumph over adversity but to pursue their dreams as well.