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Schuyler’s dynamic duo: Father and daughter take pride in helping community

January 30, 2019

The latter half of 2018 brought an unexpected tragedy to Charlie Heavican, Katie Shultz, their family and the Schuyler community as a whole.

Beloved educator and resident Karrie Healy, one of Heavican’s daughters and one of Shultz’s older sisters, died unexpectedly in a car accident on Oct. 31, 2018.

“That has been really hard on everybody,” Heavican acknowledged.

Although their loved one’s passing has been difficult, the family’s 2019 got off to a positive start. First, Shultz and her husband earlier this month welcomed their daughter into the world. And on Jan. 19, Shultz and Heavican were bestowed with elite honors during the Schuyler Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Celebration Banquet: Business of the Year (Studio A Dance Academy) and Honorary Member awards, respectively.

The two said they were eagerly waiting to watch the other receive an award, unbeknownst to one another their own fate that night.

“I like to think these rewards are the community reaching back out to us. They know what we’ve been through,” Heavican said. “The community has been very supportive.”

It was not only fitting the two won together, but perhaps something that was in the cards for decades. They both share a passion for their hometown.

Shultz got her start in dance at age 4 at her older sisters’ studio, developing a passion that remains today.

After graduating from Schuyler Central High School in 2001, Shultz decided to pursue a degree in psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She obtained her degree in 2005, but upon moving back to her hometown, quickly realized her calling.

“I came back and there were not really a whole lot of opportunities for a psychology major and this opportunity presented itself,” Shultz recalled, noting the dance studio she grew up in was under ownership outside of her family at that point. “I didn’t want to see dance go away in the community, that’s what it came down to. So I told myself, ‘You either do it or watch them shut the doors.’ I took it on, and I am glad I did.”

Shultz quickly relocated and renamed the studio to its present location, 1117 A St. in downtown Schuyler. After about a year of owning the studio, Shultz bought the building it was in. The studio has remained there ever since.

“It’s a gorgeous building – it just needed some TLC (tender loving care), I think. I like the location, the character of the building,” she said, noting her husband, Corey, helps with maintenance and is highly supportive of her business. “I like being downtown. It has changed so much, but there needs to be businesses down here. That’s why we wanted to keep it down here.”

Of course, preparing it for students was a family affair. Shultz said her father was instrumental in helping make upgrades she had in mind, such as with installing central air, painting and increasing the amp service from 60 to 200. On the inside, the building looks nothing like the dry goods store it once housed many years ago. But, the owner has made a point to make sure the exterior retains its historic charm.

“She’s done a good job with that,” Heavican said of the building’s façade.

Heavican, also born and raised in Schuyler, has served on dozens of area boards and volunteered countless hours to community efforts throughout the years. But, he noted, helping his daughter and watch her turn her passion into a thriving business has been equally wonderful.

“My mother, who died 10 years ago, she enjoyed dancing. She would never miss anything to do with the arts with my kids, whether it was music or dance or any of the arts programs,” said Heavican, who with his wife have six children (the late Karrie, Kim Shevlin of Columbus, Clay Heavican of Gretna, Nick Heavican of Brooklyn, New York, Thomas Heavican of Schuyler and Katie. “Sports, she didn’t care so much. But anything to do with the arts, my mother was there. So I like to think they inherited the interest from her.”

Today, Studio A boasts about 230 students ranging in age from 18 months to adults. Students practice throughout the week and, in some cases, go to competitions around the region. Studio A specializes in a variety of dance, including tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, clogging and gymnastics.

Shultz is one of several instructors, some of whom are local and others who come from other areas like Omaha.

“The outside instructors help provide a unique outside perspective. They give Katie good ideas,” Heavican said.

Shultz agreed.

“My students get the opportunity to learn from others who have different experiences, which only helps,” she said, noting she expects her new bundle of joy to become a student there soon enough.

Shultz, whose students include two of her nieces, said the studio is about far more than dance. She said she wants it to be a place for kids to enjoy time together.

“I’ve always loved dancing, but hanging out with the kids is the best part about it,” she said, adding her thanks to her students’ parents for their efforts and support. “I like giving them something to do after school and a place where they can be themselves. Kids need something to do around here, and this has provided us with a safe place for kids to come for a lot of years.”

Heavican said he especially appreciates how Shultz has been able to make the studio a place of unity among people of different backgrounds. Referring to Schuyler’s growing Hispanic population, Heavican said he smiles when he sees white and Hispanic families interacting and having fun together there.

“Our community has struggled with the changing demographics. There are so many places where we function as separate communities … But Katie is one person who has crossed that threshold and created a true place of camaraderie among adults, not just kids,” he said.

The father and daughter reiterated their appreciation to the community for their recent awards, noting they’re “grateful” and “honored.” Winning together made their honors that much more exciting.

“It’s very special to receive the award with my dad,” she said. “I learned a lot from him, I l learned everything from him actually, as far as giving back to your community. I just want to continue doing what we’re doing: Helping kids get better and have fun.

“You get out what you put in. if you want something to be really successful, you have to really commit and be here. You have to address everything head on to make things successful.”

As they chatted on a recent morning over their weekly coffee gathering, they said they had no doubt Karrie would be proud of them.

“I think she would be impressed,” Shultz said, as her father smiled. “I know she would be happy for us.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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