Locals host monthly dance for special needs residents: 'This is why we do this'

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette
Janay, dressed as Wonder Woman, and Kaitlyn, as Captain America, enjoy themselves at the October dance.

Every fourth Thursday evening, the Parish Hall of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church is transformed into a wonderland of epic proportions that brings special needs folks in our community together for a night of dancing and fellowship.

The brainchild of George and Nina Elliott, they recognized the need for a place where these folks could fellowship without restraints and feel special.

Nina and George Elliott brought the Knights of Columbus 7027 and the St. Rosa of Lima Catholic Church Ladies' Auxiliary together to co-host the monthly dances.

To that end, they organized the Knights of Columbus 7027 and the St. Rose Ladies’ Auxiliary to put on a monthly night to be remembered.

“Most of our attendees are special needs folks and their families,” said George. “It’s rewarding because the attendees and their parents are so very appreciative of the opportunity we provide for them to socialize with their own.”

“This is why we do this,” added Nina as she pointed to a mom and her daughter slow dancing, “These folks need  places to socialize, and this provides a very safe place for them to let their hair down and have fun. Plus the parents also get to socialize and network with each other.”

Chris Christopher, a volunteer at the monthly event, added “It is heartwarming to see the innocent love and joy being so openly expressed as they frolic for the evening.”

Nina Elliott leads a large group in participating in The Locomotion dance.

Misty Dwyer, whose nephew Sean is a participant, donates her time each month to create some magic with incredible decorations.

“I do this for the families, because it’s such a great social outlet for everyone who comes,” she said.

Nina Elliott pointed to the decorations and added “This bunch truly appreciates the time spent creating this for them; they feel the love.”

Sean had a big smile on his face from getting to hang out with his friends at the October dance.

As the assembled danced the Locomotion, Hokey-Pokey, Electric Slide, and the YMCA, Michael Stone, local coordinator for Special Olympics in Santa Rosa, said about 90% of the 75 attendees at the October even were Special Olympians.

“We use sports to engage the kids in socialization and through their participation in sports and events like this, we get to watch lives being changed on a daily basis,” Stone said.

Participants at October's dance include Cody, who came to the event dressed as the Fonz.

“I come to dance and have fun,” he said.

Makayla added “I come every month to be with my friends.”

Janay, dressed as Wonder Woman, and Kaitlyn, dressed as Captain America, said it was their first time to attend, but they plan to be back every month. Decked out as a football player, Keith, while keeping an eagle eye on a gal as she kicked her heels up on the dance floor with someone else, said he comes to be with his dance partner Karen.

Adriana echoed the sentiments of many attendees: “I just love the dancing and the partying!”

Members of the St. Rose of Lima Ladies Auxiliary take a break from keeping everyone fed and happy to pose for a photo.

In addition to co-hosting the monthly dances, the Ladies Auxiliary of St. Rose will be holding their annual Christmas bazaar from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 13. Nina said that this year’s event will feature nativity scenes from around the world, over 100 vendors, and the locally-loved Filipino food preparers.