By Barb Arland-Fye
Dinner was finished, awards had been presented. Now the party could begin! Cowboy hats, a police officer’s hat and other costume headgear appeared on a tabletop near the dance floor. Balloons and balls bobbled in the air as guests of the 42nd Annual Disabled Awareness Awards Banquet and Dance unleashed their delight inside Prince of Peace Parish Hall in Clinton Oct. 5.
“Mama J” the DJ, kept the dancers pumped up, dancing along with them, plopping hats on their heads and playing songs that her listeners love to dance to, such as “YMCA,” the “Loco-Motion,” “Happy,” the “Hokey Pokey” and “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
She plopped an officer’s hat on one guest. To his delight, she announced that “the long arm of the law has arrived.” Everyone kept on dancing
During the “Happy” song, Mamma J asked dancers by name if they were happy. “Jean, are you happy?” she asked Jean Bormann, director of development and communications for L’Arche Clinton. “I’m happy!” declared Jean, a member of Prince of Peace Parish. “If you are here and can’t find joy, it’s your own fault!”
Deacon Jeff Schuetzle donned a locomotive engineer’s hat, tied a red handkerchief around his neck and swung a lantern as he led a line of dancers through the parish hall during the energetic “Loco-Motion” song. The goofy look on his face was worth the price of admission (OK, I didn’t pay to get in, but I would have paid to see that).
“This is the peripheries and it is pure joy,” said Deacon Schuetzle, a Prince of Peace parishioner and board chair of the Clinton Coalition for Disabled Persons, Inc. He also served as emcee for the Oct. 5 event, sponsored by the coalition and Knights of Columbus Council No. 707, Prince of Peace Parish.
Deacon Schuetzle has long been involved in special needs ministry to the L’Arche Clinton community, which made him a good fit to accept the position as the coalition’s chair. He said the original leaders were looking for new leaders to pass the baton to.
Prince of Peace welcomed the coalition’s annual event with deep affection. Father Ken Kuntz, the pastor, gave the invocation at this year’s event and joined the dance line during the Loco-Motion. Julie Allesee, Clinton’s mayor pro tem, welcomed the guests and Bormann shared an acknowledgment from the state of Iowa about the event.
“Your coalition has worked vigorously for many years to facilitate such an important event,” wrote Jill Fulitano Avery, executive officer of the state’s Office of Persons with Disabilities, Office of Deaf Persons. “The support you provide to the community is such a valuable resource.”
Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich proclaimed October 2019 Disabilities Awareness Month. The proclamation states in part that “people with disabilities have made a significant contribution to communities, states and to the nation – as workers and as fully participating members of society.” Furthermore, “communities, people with disabilities and society as a whole benefit when all citizens are engaged in meaningful, productive activities that make maximum use of individual talents …”
Willis Sikkema, the coalition’s former board chair, shared a couple of stories with the guests, including an allegory about a baseball game to illustrate the point that “We need God’s help to get us home.”
Sponsoring a banquet and dance like this one recognizes that the guests “work so hard and each one is a child of God who wants to be recognized for what they do,” Deacon Schuetzle said. “It gives me a new understanding of what it means to go to work. It brings dignity.”
And the guests made another contribution: spreading joy to all who helped make the event possible. “I just love this,” said Henry Fullick, wearing his Knights of Columbus apron. “You won’t find people who are any more loving than this.”
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)