BOUNTIFUL — Adalyn Valdez stood at the edge of the ice rink with tears in her eyes, too scared to step forward.
Disney On Ice professional skater Gene Holmes noticed her and, smiling, crouched beside her and took her hands.
For the next half hour, he gently taught the 4-year-old how to stand on her skates, keep her balance and glide forward. When Adalyn left the rink with the last of the skaters, she was all smiles.
She was one of several kids with the Utah Foster Care Foundation who received lessons from Disney On Ice professional ice skaters Wednesday.
The quick skating lesson came the day before the 2017 Disney On Ice "Dream Big!" show kicks off its run through Nov. 19 in Salt Lake City at the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
"Everyone, bend those knees as low as we can," Holmes called out as the kids practiced falling and standing on their skates in the lobby of the South Davis Recreation Center in Bountiful.
"They did really good, actually," said Alexis St-Louis, 22, a Canadian professional skater going on his fourth year with Disney On Ice. "I was really impressed for all of them. Some of them never skated before, so it was really impressive."
Adalyn's parents, Mike and Nick Valdez, from West Jordan, stood on metal bleachers in the stands to watch their four kids in the rink.
The couple adopted two girls, Adalyn and Angel, from foster care last year. They are also currently fostering two boys.
The best part about caring for foster children is seeing them come as "total strangers, in their shell, protective and then watching them bloom and come out and be happy," Mike Valdez said.
They were the first same-sex couple to adopt foster kids in Utah, he explained, and they can't remember a life without their kids.
"They know no matter what happens, they’ve got a warm bed and a hot meal, which they haven’t always had," Mike Valdez said.
Michelle Kiesewetter, from West Jordan, also watched her 8-year-old adopted daughter from the stands.
"Events like this are amazing to me," Kiesewetter said, because her daughter "almost had to learn how to play" after leaving foster care.
The skating lesson gave her daughter a chance to meet friends who also are adopted.
"To have other friends that can say, 'I struggle, too,' so she doesn’t feel like she’s all by herself," Kiesewetter said.
The Disney On Ice skaters gave the children free tickets to the ice show, which follows the stories of eight Disney princesses, from classic princesses like Cinderella and Snow White to modern ones like Elsa and Rapunzel. The show also features several Disney princes and other familiar characters.
Former Utah resident Vika Tugolukova, 22, performs as the mermaid princess Ariel.
"She’s a very spontaneous, adventurous character, and I relate to her in many different ways," Tugolukova said.
Tugolukova was briefly in foster care at age 17 before graduating high school and beginning her skating career with Disney On Ice.
She started ice skating at 3, she said, and always encourages kids to try something new no matter how old they are.Comment on this story
"For me, skating was something I began as a young child," she explained, "and I'm still doing it 19 years later, still skating."
Isaiah Hansen, 10, said his favorite part was "skating around and having fun."
"They taught me how to stop myself when I’m going to crash into someone," he said. "And they taught me how to glide and stuff."
After the ice skating lesson, the kids met the Disney On Ice professional skaters performing as Elsa and Anna.
It just so happens that Elsa is Angel Valdez's favorite Disney princess.
"It's pretty awesome," she said with a shy smile.