On June 7, students and friends with special needs enjoyed the Gatsby Gala in the John Taylor Building. Music and laughter filled the room as attendees enjoyed italian sodas. Black and yellow balloons dotted the dance floor as the DJ remixed 1920 classics.
The event was organized by I-Serve, a branch of Student Support. I-Serve provides students with opportunities like the gala to get involved and make new friends.
Roughly 40 college students and special needs friends attended the event. Some spent the night dancing while others tossed balloons and enjoyed refreshments.
Carson Martinez, a junior studying public health, volunteers for I-Serve and helped organize the event.
Martinez said the event was inspired by an attendee who always hoped to attend prom, but never had the opportunity. The Gala gave her and other special needs friends a prom night experience. Martinez spent the evening on the dance floor smiling and laughing with a woman in a wheelchair.
Rachel Thompson, a junior studying recreation management, also attended the event. Thompson said the I-Serve environment motivated her to get involved. As she attended activities, Thompson formed a friendship with one of the special needs participants. They both grew to look forward to seeing each other at the events.
“People are afraid to get out there because they haven’t had experience with people with disabilities,” Thompson said. “They don’t know how to react with them; they don’t know what to do. These people are just like anyone else. (They are) the sweetest, kindest souls you will ever meet. The more you come and interact with them, the more you’ll fall in love.”
Zachary Klingler, a sophomore studying accounting, attended the Gala on a date. They swing danced under colorful lights of red, green and blue on the dance floor with new friends. Klinger said attending I-Serve activities, like the Gala, is contagious.
“Go to one, and you are going to want to go to others,” Klingler said.
Klingler encouraged other students to attend future events and said these events are not only fun but can make good dates.
Martinez loves these events. He said they are an opportunity to understand friends with special needs.
“That’s what we call them, our friends,” Martinez said. “Of course (serving) makes me feel good. I love doing this kind of service…I want to reach out to others and help them see what I see as well.”
Find out more about service activities and how you can get involved here.