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Flying High with Kippy

An entrepreneur brings her passion for acrobatics to her community

When Christine “Kippy” Hoene, a 57-year-old acrobat and entrepreneur with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), first opened her SaltAer circus school in Jacksonville, Fla., earlier this year, it represented a culmination of her passions. At age 35, Hoene decided she wanted to learn a new skill every year, and after seeing Cirque du Soleil perform in Las Vegas, she set out to learn acrobatics. 

“I was always trying new things, and I tried this and just loved it,” she says. “I really enjoyed the challenges it brings, and how you use minute parts of your body that you never knew you had.”

Hoene learned acrobatics while living in St. Louis. However, after buying back a company located in Jacksonville that she had started in her 30s, she found herself splitting her time between the two cities. Her inspiration for starting SaltAer was simple.

“It really is my passion, and I was a little selfish,” she says. “I wanted a place [to do acrobatics] in Jacksonville, and there wasn’t anything. I also thought it would be great for the community.”

SaltAer — a play on words that refers to the school’s location on the beach and aerial silks that are used in acrobatics — opened its doors in June 2016 and has been hosting classes, open gyms and free educational sessions for community members. Hoene attributes her ability to stay active after being diagnosed with FSHD five years ago to her passion for acrobatics. 

“I just feel like it’s really kept my body strong, and that makes me happy,” she says. 

In addition to attending MDA Muscle Walks with her circus stilts, Hoene finds time to volunteer for other charities and projects, including creating an app called DanceEmoji that helps support the Center for World Health in St. Louis. 

Read More Personal Stories on Strongly

Find personal stories about individuals living unlimited with neuromuscular diseases on Strongly, the MDA blog.

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