A Night to Remember
For the second year in a row, I had the absolute pleasure of volunteering at an event hosted by Discovery Church called "A Night to Remember"- and oh, how aptly named!!! This annual event is a formal gala for young adults with a variety of physical and mental disabilities. Each guest was paired with a volunteer with whom to party the night away. "A Night to Remember" pulls out all of the stops for these amazing guests- before the event even begins, there is hair and makeup for the women, a gown or tuxedo for each person, flowers and boutonnieres, formal photographs, and a limo ride to the event venue, all provided at no charge to the guest. As each attendee arrived at the DoubleTree hotel in Cranberry Township, they exited their limo and were announced by name on a red carpet and met with roaring (and I do mean roaring!) cheers from hundreds of community members who showed up simply to witness the spectacle. Talk about feeling like a star!
Once inside the hotel, the party really got started! There were magicians, stilt walkers, balloon artists, photo booths, and video games all before we even walked into the impeccably decorated enormous ballroom. The balloon artist seemed to be a big hit with the guests. I witnessed some very elaborate headdresses on the dance floor. The photo booth line seemed endless, too. There was no shortage of entertainment. However, the biggest draw was definitely the dance floor. After the plated dinner service, the music started. And from the first note, the dance floor was PACKED! After a few hours of dancing, the night came to an end and each guest was sent home with a swag bag full of goodies, including their formal photograph taken at the beginning of the night. Exhausted, a little sweaty, and with the most genuine smiles I've ever seen, each guest headed home with their family members who were waiting outside for them.
I know that I've just spent the last few minutes describing the event, which was mind blowing, no doubt. But by far, the most rewarding part of the night and the whole reason that I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer again this year, was because of the infectious joy that is in the air at this event. My guest, we'll call her "T", was an outgoing, vivacious young woman who wanted to leave it all out on the dance floor! What a blessing it was to be paired with her. She had numerous friends from school and even past years' events that she got to meet up with and have a ball. She graciously let me tag along with her and her friends. I think I even got a few loving eye rolls because my dance moves were not up to speed with hers ;-)
When I think back to my own prom or some other formal events, I remember that there was always pressure to "fit it", to have the latest trendy clothing, etc. But "T" reminded me, through her spirit, how to just let loose, be yourself, and simply have fun! The entire event is free from judgment and it's a night where everyone can feel included and accepted. The organizer of the event likes to say "I believe Jesus loved a good party" (I mean he did turn water into wine to keep that wedding going...) "and we're going to throw a great one!" God's presence was palpable in the pure joy that was spread throughout the night. The minute the event was over, I was already looking forward to next year!