The year following the passing of my parents was a tough one. Void of their love and laughter, life was dull and sad. My relationship with my boyfriend was tested as I relied heavily on his strength. I learned that he didn’t have enough to share . . . so he left me for someone he believed needed him more. After wallowing for a bit, I was determined to get the hell out of my funk, and decided the best way to do so was to forget my troubles by helping others.
I started with a Google search of volunteer opportunities in my city. Scanning the list, I called on organizations that piqued my interest. I left messages, answered questions, sent letters of recommendation, and in some cases scheduled interviews. Why was it so difficult to volunteer, to help people, to work for free? Why??!!
Calling the next number on my list, I pondered hanging up as the phone rang off the hook, and then suddenly, a friendly voice. His name was John. I asked him to tell me about the Friday Nite Funtime Dance. He was casual and brief, told me the dances were the third Friday of every month. There would be a dance next Friday. No application, no extensive screening process, I should “show up” at 7:30. So I did.
I arrived at the local rec center and found John. He introduced me to a family who have become very dear to me, The Segura’s, Joe, Delores, and their children, Yvonne and Martin. Joe and Delores started these dances 28 years ago for their son Martin who is disabled. Delores explained to me to that while Martin attended school his social life was quite busy, filled with fun activities and dances. But once Martin graduated the social opportunities dried up for him and all developmentally disabled adults who had graduated.The Segura’s saw a need and were determined to create a dance where Martin and his peers could socialize, have fun, and hang out with friends. The Friday Nite Funtime Dance was born.
Over the last six years I have come to know and admire the Segura’s. Yvonne and her husband Chris Bantoft, with the support of the Knights of Columbus and monthly volunteers like me, organize and manage the event each month. Its’ a big job and they do the lion’s share. They are dedicated to providing these dances for Martin and his friends.
Delores welcomes guests, their families and group home leaders. She has known many of these kids since Martin was in elementary school. She reassures and supports those families who are new to the dances, and new to the idea of a social future for their adult children. Delores has so much wisdom and experience to share, as did Joe, and the two of them worked hand in hand.
Sadly, Joe passed away earlier this year. I’ll never forget the dance following Joe’s passing, Chris, Yvonne, Delores and Martin, slow dancing in a tight huddled circle, arms around each other, smiling and crying as they remembered Joe . . , an amazing father and husband, a man dedicated to service. As I looked on, I felt honored to know Joe and to witness the beautiful display of love.
Volunteering at this little dance is a highlight for me each month. I enjoy seeing the guests as well as visiting with the other volunteers. They are my third Friday of the month family. I check-in guests, engage in conversation, serve refreshments, and on occasion I dance. I know the regulars quite well now. Some of the girls hug me when they see me. The guys offer a hearty hello, and the occasional knuckles. They enthusiastically tell me their stories, sometimes the same ones over, and over again, and I happily hang on every word.
The age range of the guests is quite broad, and their disabilities varied. Regardless, their joy is pure, their zest for life, contagious. Their uninhibited expression through music is a lesson in letting go of what holds us back from being our truest and purest selves.
When people learn about my volunteer gig, they often praise me. The truth is I haven’t done a single praiseworthy thing, I am not the least bit selfless. Instead, it is my Friday night peeps who save me. They lift my spirit with their smiling faces.
I am grateful to have met Joe, Delores, Yvonne, Chris and Martin. They have taught me about the gift of service, and welcomed me as part of the Friday Nite Funtime Dance family.