A red carpet was rolled out in Murrieta’s Community Center, which was transformed by the sound of music and cheery people shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14 for a dance scheduled for adult members of the special needs community.
The dance began as many dances usually do, with a wide-variety of people crowding the entrance to the community center in their excitement to get in.
Parents and caregivers lined up outside the average-sized doorway to the community center with the person they were caring for, and it wasn’t unusual to see ties and jackets being straightened among other last minute fix-ups before the dance participants entered the building.
As each of the more than 130 special needs people entered the community center, they were ushered onto the red carpet where roughly two dozen of the Rotarians and volunteer high school students clapped for them and celebrated their arrival on a night that was truly theirs.
The event was organized by Murrieta’s Rotary Club and chapters of Murrieta Valley Unified School District’s Interact Club, and was aimed at providing a space for special needs individuals to get out and have some fun with one another on a dance floor.
This is just one of many years the event has taken place at the community center and it’s an event that Rotary Club President Patsy Orr said she is very proud of.
“My favorite part is just watching them (the special needs individuals) have fun once the dance gets started,” said Orr. “And I just love coming to this every
The club president, who started her journey as a Rotarian more than 10 years ago, said that being part of the organization has been an all-encompassing experience because of the many community service events it takes on throughout the course of the year.
She said she sees the positive impact the club has on the surrounding community whenever she has conversation with the people it has served. She said the families and caregivers of the special needs individuals are a prime example of that idea.
“The parents love it, the special needs adults love it, and even the caretakers (love it)” she said.
“One year we almost didn’t do it because we were having problems and the person who was supposed to chair it couldn’t do it,” she said. “And two weeks before, Care Rite, which is the organization that assists special needs adults in this area, called and said ‘when is the dance going to be because all of the guys are wanting to know when the dance is.'”
Care Rite is vocational service for special needs individuals.
Orr said members of the rotary club then pulled together and found a way to facilitate the event in spite of the short notice and the obvious roadblocks it created to give members of the community what they were yearning for.
“So we put it together real fast and we had it,” she said. “And if we didn’t have it I think there would be a lot of disappointed attendees because many of these special needs adults I have seen every year and they have a grand time.”
However, the adults of the rotary club weren’t the only individuals who helped to make the evening’s event happen. Many high school students from Interact Clubs from the three Murrieta-area high schools volunteered throughout the course of the evening, dishing out food and pieces of cake to the many hungry dance attendees among other tasks.
Jim Yanoschik, who chaired the event, said he has so many students from Interact (the high school leg of Rotary) wanting to volunteer than he actually has to limit the number of volunteers he can bring in just about every year.
“It’s so popular, because we have three high schools, that we have two shifts and we’re really over-manned,” he said. “But I want them to help and I want to try to get as many as we can.”
Jim Yanoschik said that it’s more of a good thing than a bad thing to have too many kids wanting to volunteer because it shows they’re enthusiastic about community service. He added that many of the students stay past their assigned shift to remain a part of the experience.
One of the student volunteers, 14-year-old Cassidy Aranda, said she found her work as a volunteer at the night’s event to be invaluable because of the visible difference she was making.
“I saw this one person and he came through the door,” she said. “Oh my gosh, you should have seen his face. He was literally like so grateful for the experience he had, so grateful for the people that were there.
“He was like, ‘gosh, thank you guys,'” She said. “And I literally almost started crying, that made me so happy.”