“Another Saturday Night” filled the air of the Pleasanton Civic Center on April 30, as children and adults alike took to the dance floor.
The scene was a part of the “Sweet Memories” Spring Dance for special needs, ages 14-adult.
The beautiful, prom-style celebration was hosted by Jamie’s Ranch for Special Kids, in partnership with the City of Pleasanton. Through the support of many volunteers, businesses, organizations and individuals, there was not a fee to attend.
Sheri and Roger Mitzel serve as program directors for Jamie’s Ranch in McCoy, which provides opportunities for ranch fun and recreation for those with special needs.
The night before the event, after the decorating had been done, Sheri said, “ I think they are going to be thrilled. That wow factor is there.”
Approximately 350 participated, with a waiting list of 160. Sheri is look ing into making it a two- day event next year.
“We really literally could have put on two dances. And we are full. We ended up putting up two extra tables. You couldn’t fit anything more in the Civic Center,” said Sheri.
Regarding sponsorships, Sheri said, “The response from this community really just floored Roger and I.”
They are amazed at everyone’s extreme generosity. Money in excess of the expenses will go towards the next dance.
“So we’re just so pleased. There are no words, not only for the financial support but the emotional support and the people that showed up today and all my volunteers tomorrow. This is just my feeling, that there is so much division in the world and I wish some of these people could see what took place today when a group of people get together and work together for something good, you know?”
As she shared in a Facebook post, “It takes a village and I love my village.”
Sheri shared that in the middle of the civic center hung a handmade chandelier. It was made by Sheri’s sister-in-law.
“She made it for her daughter’s wedding and I want to say the wedding was in July and she did have cancer. She died in November. She was only 52 years of age.”
It was the family’s way of keeping her in the middle of everything, as she wanted to be.
“So I thought that was kind of cool. We stood back. I thought, “Aww, she’s smiling somewhere,” said Sheri.
The event included attendees from inside and outside Atascosa County.
“I think that this event is very important because these special-needs kids just really crave getting out in a social setting like this. It’s all decorated and it’s just for them. We’re even going to have table attendants, so they will actually be waited on.”
Sheri shared stories she has heard in the days leading up to the dance.
“I had parents text me last night that were thanking me for doing this because their kids were just so excited they couldn’t stand it.”
Another story involved two boys going to a thrift store in Pleasanton.
“They didn’t have anything to wear and the ladies at the thrift store were so nice that they walked away with two outfits.”
Sheri also heard about dresses found for girls, as well as another group who told her about a girl and her Christmas dress.
“She was never able to wear the dress so when her leader said, ‘You’re going to be able to wear your dress at this dance,’ she cried.”
Sheri continued, “I think that for them it’s a big deal to get dressed up and to go somewhere special. I’ve always said that… and this is with Jamie’s Ranch in general, I don’t have these huge lofty goals, I just want them to have fun. I want them to feel good about themselves.”
Mardi Gras beads, candy and tissue flowers graced the tables. Guests enjoyed lunch and both live music and DJ music.
“We made 350 handmade wrist corsages, so every participant will get one. Plestex Theatre made 350 bags of popcorn so it will be their snack when they come in. So they are going to get their corsage and a drink and the popcorn.”
There were two places designated specially for taking pictures.
“We have a beautiful balloon arch and a photographer there, and then we have a photo booth where they can do all those fun, silly pictures.”
Pleasanton Mayor Travis Hall said of the event, “The City of Pleasanton is really proud to be a part of this and to furnish the civic center for Jamie’s Ranch, for all these special kids. We’re just glad to be here, and glad to be able to do that. As you can see, there are a lot of volunteers and a lot of people that make this possible. So we’re just really glad to be a part of it.”