Freedom Work Opportunities “Groovy Prom”. A Most remarkable event!

May 17, 2010

On Saturday, May 15, 2010 I was scheduled to perform at an event for Freedom Work Opportunities… a “Groovy Prom”.  I was somewhat familiar with this organization because they have several facilities near my home and I knew they do some great things for people who really need their help. From their own Web site, here is what FWO says about themselves:

“Freedom Work Opportunities, Inc. (FWO) is a Non profit 501 c 3 Vocational Training Program serving the needs of developmentally disabled adults in the Oakland, Livingston, and Genesee County areas.   FWO was founded in 1983 to provide skill training to individuals with disabilities. It is the purpose of this organization to provide realistic training to individuals in a manner that promotes personal growth, dignity, and respect.”

I was aware that I would be doing an event for people with special challenges, but was not completely prepared for what I was about to experience. I figured I would need some help with this event and since my regular helpers were all busy working the Relay for Life, I managed to convince Sandy (My Wife) to come along to help.

We set up and watched at the guests (FWO refers to them as “Consumers”) began to arrive. Most were nicely dressed and were obviously very excited to be attending this event.  The FWO staff and Consumer organizing committee had done a marvelous job transforming their headquarters building into a Prom site! The walls were draped in black and the room was festively decorated. There were refreshments provided along with other activities happening during the party.  It was really a very nice scene that the “Prom” guests whose ages ranged from 20-70 years arrived to. Corsages and boutonnieres were provided to the attendees. The room was packed full of people.

After a short “reception period” (no cocktails here!), we went right into dancing. I opened the mic and welcomed the crowd and asked if they were ready to have a great time… the enthusiasm was overwhelming. I started the dance music and the dance floor exploded with a bevy of excited dancers having a great time. Excitement, fun and participation is not so unique as this is our goal for each event we do. What made this so special though, were the people themselves. I have been performing at events for 35+ years, but I had never experienced anything quite like this. Here is just some of the things I observed in the next three hours:

  • People who need crutches and walkers to move around, out on the dance floor having the time of their lives.
  • People clapping to the music even though one or maybe both of hands do not function due to disease.
  • People dancing who can barely speak squealing with excitement again and again.
  • Staff members and caretakers encouraging and enabling everyone to take part (many needed some urging to get out there!)
  • Caretakers who had brought quadriplegics in wheelchairs moving the arms and legs of the person allowing them to “dance”
  • The people in walkers and wheelchairs participating in limbo – I had never seen someone in a wheelchair do Limbo before!
  • Mostly, we witnessed dozens of happy people looking at us, smiling, dancing and giving me a “thumbs up” sign each time a new song started.

There were a few notable characters among the guests that I want to mention.

  • First there was the man (we called him our “Rainman”) who knew the words of every song we played during the evening (yes, I said EVERY song). He sang along with each one while leading the dance floor echoing the refrain “Let’s Do It!” when a song he especially liked began (which was most of them). He was truly amazing!
  • Another dancer who entertained the crowd with his interpretation of the famous John Travolta “Greased Lightning” dance from Grease… it was awesome!
  • Another dancer who evidently considered himself quite the ladies man who slow danced with nearly all of the women in attendance – regardless of what the song was… He even slow danced to the Cha Cha Slide!
  • There was even a fellow there who came up to tell me that he is also a DJ… He had played music at a party the night before and stated that he was out late… until 9:00 PM!  He didn’t know the names of many songs and asked to look at my reference book so he could make a few suggestions to “help” me. I don’t know what I would have done without him! (My DJ friends will especially appreciate this!) At the end of the evening, I thanked him for “helping me out”. The big smile I received in return was priceless.

I don’t know exactly how many events I have done over the years… hundreds, maybe thousands… but never one like this before. To see so many happy, deserving people having the time of their lives, made me proud to have been there to help make it all happen. When it was over, I was told by the staff that the event, which was the first time they had ever organized an event like this, exceeded everyone’s expectations. It certainly exceeded mine. I will never forget all of those smiles and happy squeals of delight. Thanks to Robin, Marie and the entire FWO staff for allowing me to be part of this event.

As for future FWO events… we’ll be back. I’m smiling just thinking about it! 

To learn more about Freedom Work Opportunities visit their web site: http://freedomwork.org/

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: