By Chris Rotolo | Photos by Bart Lentini|
RED BANK – Allie Resch, 30, is known by her family as someone who never has a bad day.
So when she seemed a little down, her aunt, Patti Dickens, investigated.
“She was complaining a little bit to me and this is a girl who does not complain,” Dickens said of her niece, a member of the special needs community. “She was telling me that she and her friends never have anything to do in the winter and she just wanted to see her friends more.”
Dickens brought the dilemma to the RAINE Foundation, which she helped found and serves the people of the Bayshore. Together they decided to host a dance for Allie and her peers. Last year it was on St. Patrick’s Day. But this year they welcomed guests to a “Spring Fling” on Friday night. More than 130 children and young adults came to the Red Bank Elks Club to let loose and have a great time.
“Tonight is so much fun,” Resch said that night, with the music playing in the background. “I love my Aunt Patti because she hosted this dance for me and my friends and we all had a great time.”
The tunes were supplied by DJ Jay “The Danceman” Bowman of Middletown, who delighted the revelers by leading them in choreographed movements to party-time anthems like the Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars hit, “Uptown Funk,” and the classic “Born to Hand Jive” from “Grease.”
Bowman has been honored by the New Jersey State Legislature with a special commendation for his work with the special needs community, as well as for being a man of “strong character and outstanding determination.”
Bowman kept the energy up in the room with rocking selections from the Rolling Stones and The Kinks, but it was when he turned the lights down low for “Tale as Old as Time” from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” that couples in the room got close; and those who hadn’t ventured out to Red Bank with a date mustered the courage to ask a partner to dance.
“To watch that happen, to see eyes meet from across the room and these kids take the initiative to ask for a dance, it’s really thrilling. And for us it’s what this dance is all about,” Dickens added.
Continuing the Disney theme, the attendees welcomed Arendelle royalty to the dance floor – special guests Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, characters from “Frozen” – who led the group in a sing-along of hits like “Let It Go” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”
“My favorite parts of the night are being with friends and enjoying the company of Elsa and Anna,” said Lindsey Keune, 30, of Ocean Township. “This organization is so remarkable for putting this dance together for us. It’s so much fun.”
The dancers eventually broke for dinner, as patrons lined up for a buffet of pasta, chicken, veggies, pizza and more, all of which was donated by Hazlet establishments Giuseppe’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant and Nic’s Hometown Tavern. Hair and makeup services were donated by Kevin Kelly Salon in Union Beach and rental of the hall was provided free of charge by the Red Bank Elks Lodge.
“Anything we can do to help people, we will,” said Mike Barry, Red Bank Elks Lodge special needs chairman. “If we can offer these kids and their parents a place to relax and have fun, and get away from the tribulations in their life, we’re happy to do it. There’s nothing more rewarding for us than helping people and seeing the smiles on their faces.”
RAINE Foundation President Anthony Petruzzi praised the community that came together in support of this Spring Fling. “Our volunteer staff does an incredible job organizing this event, but it wouldn’t be able to happen without our community partners,” said Petruzzi, a teacher and head varsity football coach at Raritan High School. “They’re such giving people, who are always willing to back our initiatives. With their help, we hope this is an event that we can continue to do each year.”
This article was first published in the May 3-10, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
If you liked this story, you’ll love our newspaper. Click here to subscribe