Valentines Day Dance Reflections

As the DJ turned the music down and the last guests left the dance floor, the 25th Annual Valentines Day Dance was officially over. The craft tables were full of leftover glitter glue and face paint, the balloon arch stood empty, and the sorbet punch was all gone. While guests grabbed their coats and volunteers took down remaining decorations, everyone reflected on another beautiful Valentines Day Dance.

Each year, the Saint Anselm community welcomes members of Southern New Hampshire's special needs community for a Valentines Day celebration. This year's celebration was held on February 11, 2017 from 1pm to 4pm in the Carr Center. With dozens of clubs running craft tables, plenty of volunteers making decorations, and guests from all over Southern New Hampshire on the dance floor, the celebration was an incredible success for the 25th year in a row.

For some, the Annual Valentines Day Dance is a time to catch up with loved ones. Erin Clapp '17 has been attending the Valentines Day Dance with her cousin Evie since Clapp's freshmen year at Saint Anselm.

"Evie has severe autism among other diagnoses and its not always easy to find things she enjoys to do. Evie and I are very close and spend a lot of time together when I am at home…Evie loves to
dance and sing, so freshman year my aunt and I thought we would give it a shot!" Clapp reminisced. She elaborated on all the memories her and Evie have singing on car rides and having dance parties at home. Evie is a particularly big fan of pop stars like Katy Perry and Kesha, and has attended dance class since she was 5 years old.

"Neither of us knew2017-02-11 14.14.29 what to expect. Evie was very excited about coming to campus and seeing me, but neither of us was sure what the dance was like. She came storming in with smiles and starting jumping in excitement. The music and the atmosphere was so welcoming and she was ecstatic to be there. I was so thrilled to see Evie having a good time and singing and dancing with some of her friends from her own community!" Clapp explained, mentioning that many of Evie's friends from her dance class often attend the celebration.

 

This year, Clapp came to the Valentines Day Dance alongside Evie for their fourth dance together- and Clapp's last dance as a student at Saint Anselm. As soon as the two showed up, they wasted no time. The dynamic pair headed straight to the dance floor where they remained for hours, dancing and singing under all the Valentines Day decorations.

"Every year at the dance is different with Evie. She plans her outfit in advance and always talks about which songs she wants to dance to. I am so glad I got to spend my four years at the Valentines Day Dance with Evie. I know that she enjoys her time at the dance and I will miss being able to share this event with her. It is something that has been very special for us. I am so glad that Saint Anselm gave me the opportunity to bring Evie to campus and share part of my school with her."

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The memories made at the Valentines Day Dance are only possible through the combined efforts of our entire community—both on and beyond the Hilltop. Maggie Walker '17, the Meelia Center's  Service Events Coordinator for the dance, prepared months before the dance to make sure volunteers and guests were ready for the special celebration. Walker accredits the success of the event to the dedication of the Meelia Center's staff, as well as all of those who were in attendance. When asking any given person what their favorite part of the Valentines Day Dance is, they are likely to mention students, faculty, staff, and community members coming together to spread some love. As February comes to a close, the community looks forward to all the years of celebration to come through the Annual Valentines Day Dance.

A Closer Look at the Annual Valentines Day Dance

As February approaches, people often scramble to make plans for Valentines Day or aim to avoid the Hallmark holiday all together. The day intended to celebrate romantic love is often resented by many who would rather spend their day alone. Instead of reserving the holiday for romantic love, the Saint Anselm community works celebrate all types of love on Valentines Day through service and friendship. Weeks before the holiday, Service Events staff and Office Assistants at the Meelia Center begin preparing for the Annual Valentines Day Dance. This year, the dance will be held on February 11, 2017 from 1pm-4pm in the Carr Center. The dance caters toward the special needs community all across Southern New Hampshire. Complete with music, games, craft tables, snacks, cookies, and tons of decorations, the day of love is often equivocal to a prom, a homecoming, or any other special event. Many involved with the Valentines Day Dance agree that it is one of the happiest days of the entire year.

The Meelia Center's Office Assistants will be preparing and celebrating their first Valentines Day Dance in just a few days. Often preforming behind-the-scenes tasks in the Meelia Center, the Office Assistants work passionately to ensure that all service events run smoothly. As Erin Martin '20 works on decorating signs for the Valentines Day Dance, she reflects on all the preparation that goes into the Meelia Center's service events. While Martin loves volunteering at the events, she expresses the value in being involved in with all that goes on before the event.

The OAs are often freshmen looking to get involved in service, and eventually transition to roles with more responsibilities. Becky Rondeau '20 currently works as an OA, and she hopes this position will give her the skills to be a Site Coordinator next semester. Having joined the Meelia Center staff as a freshman, Rondeau speaks about how her experience shaped her first year here at Saint Anselm.

"The Meelia Center definitely opened me up to more people. Especially people in other grades. People often see grade as a limit, but not here in the Meelia Center," Rondeau explains. The Meelia Center has over 80 staff members composed of students from all different grades, majors, and backgrounds. Each staff member is dedicated to strengthening relationships within and beyond the Saint Anselm community.

This Valentines Day, the Meelia Center, the Saint Anselm community, and the larger Southern New Hampshire community will come together for the 25th year in a row to create a day of love that everyone will benefit from.  All are welcome to sign up to volunteer at the 25th Annual Valentines Day Dance, or just stop by to enjoy the atmosphere created by the incredible Office Assistants. Everyone has a place at the dance, even those who typically resent Valentines Day! In fact, the Valentines Day Dance may just make Valentines Day your favorite day of the year.

 

 

A Freshman View of the Valentine's Day Dance

Guests jumped right in when Cotton Eyed Joe played!

Last Saturday, February 15th, was the Meelia Center's annual Special Needs Valentine's Dance! Speaking as a freshman, this was my favorite event at Saint A's thus far. I had the pleasure of helping to plan the special event with my fellow Service Events team and could not have asked for a more rewarding process. From advertising the dance, to inviting our beautiful guests and everything in between, my favorite preparation for the dance was decorating.Hundreds of  pink and white balloons rained from the ceilings of Upper Cushing and the entire North Lounge was covered in hearts and streamers. The Meelia Center staff and volunteers worked together to form a ginormous balloon heart that was a centerpiece for the prom-like dance.

Hours of planning, poster-making, shopping, and decorating were made worth it the moment our stars arrived. Around 200 special needs guests and caregivers waltzed into Upper Cushing and North Lounge around 1 P.M. The atmosphere of the dance was amazing. Everyone was dressed in their best pinks, reds and whites and a feeling of friendship was in the air. As a freshman, it was incredible to see the overwhelming support of our student volunteers. They limboed and danced the day away. Some clubs had craft tables set up, cookie decorating and face painting being two of the most popular!

Everyone truly enjoyed a break from their hectic schedules and used the dance as a time to let loose while making a huge difference. If you did not have time to get involved in the dance this year, it should definitely be on your radar next February! If you are looking to get involved in a service event sooner, the Meelia Center service events team will be holding the annual Dodgeball Tournament on April 12th!