A Night of Joy and Opportunity

 In Blog

This weekend, I was privileged to be part of an event that raised dollars for an important nonprofit in the region in a way that brought joy and opportunity to the very people it supports.

Let’s Dance, held Saturday night at Gateway City Arts by Pathlight, paired 10 people it serves with physical and intellectual disabilities with 10 local celebrities, and they took to the stage, one couple at a time, with unrivaled energy and danced their hearts out. As one of four judges, I had an up-close and personal view, and the unbridled joy and deep satisfaction I witnessed on the faces of those men and women will sustain me for some time to come.

The pairs worked with a dance instructor for many months in advance of the performance, learning complicated and creative choreography. Combined with equally imaginative costumes, the teams lit up the stage in a way that moved many in the audience to raucous laughter, and also to tears.

Brian Melanson, a teacher at a Pathlight program called Milestones, was partnered with a man he helps to care for, Fortune Rodriguez. I heard Brian say after the event, “I’ve known Fortune for a long time, and I have never seen him as happy as he was tonight. I watched as he interacted with people in the audience. It was amazing.”

It was a beautiful thing to watch Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and his partner Lucie Pasche, dolled up in a sleeveless gown with a head full of curls, dance to “What Makes You Beautiful,” and incredibly heartwarming to watch Anna Barre dance with Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper and later, in accepting their award, to hear Anna call out with glee, “Thank you judges.”

Aidan O’Donoghue (partnered with Arlene Rodriguez, the 2016 Professional Women’s Chamber Woman of the Year) and Alex Mody (paired with Debra Vega, a retired Broadway performer and Radio City Rockette) had me jumping out of my seat with the quality of their dancing and their ability to perform in character. Aidan did a spectacular rendition of “Greased Lightening” from the play “Grease,” and Alex was on fire with the intensity of his moves.

Each of the 10 couples who performed went home with an award in categories such as “Extra Expressive,” “Broadway Bound,” and “Sassiest Steps.” Matching the performers with the award was the job of us judges. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and serving with Alex Dixon, general manager at MGM Resorts International; Anne Geoffrion, a retired judge in Hampden Probate and Family Court; and Gail Perlman, also a retired Family and Probate judge. We also provided commentary after each performance. My fellow judges were both witty and expressive.

Ruth Griggs and I have been working with Pathlight for about four years. I have written stories about the life-changing benefits experienced by the people they serve, as well as press releases.

I am beyond impressed by the organization’s conception of this Let’s Dance event and its ability to pull it off with such perfection. Big kudos go to Valle Dwight, Pathlight’s director of development and communications; Lynne Saner, communications manager; and Megan Pete, development manager, for bringing this so well-imagined event to an audience, and for allowing me to play a part.

The organization surpassed its $40,000 goal with this event, and you can still give to increase the support and allow these innovative and compassionate leaders to do more good.

Bravo Valle, Lynne, and Megan. Encore. Do it again!

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