Garner Cleveland Record

Able to Serve provides Valentine’s Day fun

jwhitfield@newsobserver.com

Valentine’s Day is a chance to be with that someone special.

And for a whole host of special needs teens and adults, it was a chance to hang out for a few hours with others like them.

Sponsored by the Garner nonprofit Able to Serve, the Feb. 6 dance at Holland’s United Methodist Church brought more than 100 people including some from all over the Triangle.

The eclectic group of people included not only those with special needs, but their family members and caregivers as well.

Becky Beasley, who has a mild form of cerebral palsy, was among those who spent a lot of time on the dance floor. She has been to several Able to Serve socials in the past, but she said the Valentine’s Dance is one she especially looks forward to it.

“It’s a lot of fun for everybody and it’s just really nice to see a lot of my friends that I don’t get to see a lot,” said Beasley, who is also the editor of Able to Serve’s quarterly newspaper.

“It’s also a chance to be around other people like me,” she said.

Last weekend’s dance didn’t look a thing like some high school dance you might see. The dance floor was never empty and seldom uncrowded. Dancers included those with special needs and some of their caregivers and family members. Dancers twisted and swayed along, with a single partner and sometimes in groups. Line dances, like at other parties, were popular numbers with the crowd.

Carlton McDaniel, the executive director of Able to Serve, used another description to explain the frenzied activity.

“This is kind of their prom dance,” McDaniel said.

And, indeed the evening was a chance to get dolled up. Alossi Renewal Spa makeup artists were on hand to help the women get their makeup done before the dance started. And Hair by Studio 121 offered free hairstylings.

The dance is one of two big social events Able to Serve puts on each year. The other, called the Harvest Dance, takes place each fall in Johnston County.

The dances are an important way to give people with special needs a sense of normalcy.

Tory Moore, who works as a caregiver for a woman with special needs, says the dance gives people like her client a chance to have social interactions they don’t get on a regular basis.

“She’s very social,” Moore said of her client. “She doesn’t get a lot of chances to do this. But she’s an adult and she knows what it means to go out and have a good time, so when we can come to events like this, we try to.”

Moore says tries to give the people she cares for as much independence as she can, especially at events like the Valentine’s dance. “We came in here and I try to stay as far away from her as I can, so she can do what she wants. I keep my eye on her, but otherwise, I’m happy to just sit right here in the corner and let her enjoy the night.”

That’s the kind of independence Beasley enjoys and it’s one of the reasons she appreciates her experience with Able to Serve.

“We do a lot of service projects and try to help out when someone needs us,” Beasley said. “I just like to be around other people.”

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