Photo Oct 05 9 42 03 AM 1 2The Purple Tutu is a nonprofit organization that teaches children in the special needs community how to dance. This organization is completely volunteer-run and has been operating locally in Mt. Pleasant, SC for the last six years. Their mission is to bring the artistry of ballet to dancers in the special needs community. The Purple Tutu team recognizes the challenges that children with special needs face, and thus, has constructed an outlet for them to express themselves. 

Holland McDowell is the founder and executive director of The Purple Tutu. Within her role, Ms. McDowell teaches ballet to the dancers and manages the administrative side of the organization, including promoting the organization, collecting donations, planning and scheduling events, obtaining volunteers, etc. Ms. McDowell has a background in dance and has been classically trained in ballet for thirteen years. She graduated from George Washington University, with a degree in biology.

 Ms. McDowell created this nonprofit organization in 2014, when she was in high school, as part of a school project. She decided to utilize her dancing background in ballet and mix it with her interest in science, eventually posing the question of whether ballet would help children with Down Syndrome improve their core strength. Ms. McDowell began testing her theory by teaching ballet to a few children with Down Syndrome. Through her research, she found that not only did ballet help improve their core strengths, but it also helped their motor skills. Ms. McDowell recognized the potential that this project had to help children with Down Syndrome and expanded upon it, officially founding The Purple Tutu.

Recently, The Purple Tutu has expanded its reach to incorporate all facets of the special needs community. The Purple Tutu offers classical ballet classes to children ages 4-10. All classes are held on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at Palmetto City Ballet and are always free of charge. Classes are conducted by a team of seasoned volunteers with professional dance backgrounds and previous child care experience. 

The entire Purple Tutu team is dedicated to helping and positively impacting the lives of children with special needs. One parent expressed in a letter to The Purple Tutu, “I cried after attending the first class...cried "happy tears"...because I was just overcome seeing the joy on the children's faces and overcome with gratitude for The Purple Tutu. You have no idea how deeply you touched the lives of the children with whom you worked”. The Purple Tutu strives to maintain a fun and creative environment for their dancers. The organization provides the opportunity for these children to expand their motor skills, improve their core strength, connect with others, and learn the art of ballet. As this organization continues to grow, its goals are to increase awareness of the organization and help more special needs children flourish in the dance community.


For more information, please visit


 Kat Sides works as The Purple Tutu’s Communication Intern. Kat is a student at the College of Charleston, currently pursuing degrees in both Business Administration and Communication. She is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, as well as, the Love Your Melon volunteer organization. Kat enjoys working with The Purple Tutu team and hopes to aid them in achieving their mission.