On an Extra-Special Event


Decorations in the ballroom’s corner

We arrived at the suburban convention center, then followed the red carpet to the upstairs ballroom where we found soft lighting, decorations, and plenty of tables surrounding a large temporary dance floor. At one end and above the floor, on the platform the DJ was checking his equipment from his seat beside the emcee’s podium. The judges’ area was to the left of the platform with forms ready for their completion. The people arriving were nicely dressed … some to compete and others as members of the audience.

The event was a very special sanctioned dance competition with over 30 dancers competing in foxtrot, waltz, rumba, cha cha, salsa, tango, and swing. On this day, the competitors were adults with disabilities – primarily Down Syndrome.

Several weeks ago my wife and I asked the organizer if she needed more volunteers – and she quickly said, “two males to compete” because two contestants needed partners for several dances. I checked our schedule and then accepted … plus my wife volunteered to be on the makeup and hair-styling team …. and the next day I secured a second male.

I only had two short sessions to practice with my partners, but that was enough because the steps were simple and we were not to exceed outside the listed steps. At the competition, organizers placed in heats of 6-7 dancers that allowed plenty of room for both the dancers and the judges on the floor … just like in typical dance competition.

My partners and I competed in four of the seven dances, making the semifinals and finals on three … and even winning third place in one .. but this day was more than that. Yes, it was a competition … yes, there were medals … but everyone one of the dancers were big winners. They loved dressing up, they loved dancing, they encouraged each other, and they appreciated others who smiled, said hello, or shook their hand with a smile … and we support dancers made sure the day was about our partners.

The day was about the contestants, not the dancing pair. The emcee announced each contestant for every dance, but he never mentioned their partner. We were in the program, but after the contestants name. During the awards, contestants received the medals with great joy as the never-mentioned support partner proudly stood by them … and every support partner loved playing second fiddle on a day meant for others.

The story about the organizer and how this group of people came to be is a post in itself, but on this day, my wife and I were very happy that we asked that question several weeks ago about the need for extra help. We smiled a lot on this day and left with a warmer heart, plus I know some tears leaked out of my eyes when the organizer took the time to dance with each contestant.

The next step for me seems logical … that I continue participating as a partner at their weekly gatherings … after all, it’s about them. Through the magic of dance, they see themselves on an elegant ballroom floor … but they probably don’t know or realize what they give to the volunteers.

(Note: It isn’t my place to post a video on the dances, but if the organizer releases them for public viewing, I will share.)

61 thoughts on “On an Extra-Special Event

  1. As someone born with two left feet, I would never set a toenail on a dance floor, but I think that’s very commendable of you, Frank, to partner those with disabilities who want to partake in ballroom dancing.


    • Debbie,
      Welcome first-time commenter! … and many thanks for the kind words … but one side of me asks “Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?” … Nonetheless, I’m glad I did.


  2. A very special event indeed, Frank. Yes, I’m sure that the volunteers are also very blessed by taking part in this dance competition. How wonderful that both you and your wife could help to make this occasion so memorable for the contestants. 🙂


  3. Well Frank, my heart just swelled and swelled with so much joy as I read this – and I had to blink away some tears too ……. I love when such things happen – when the divide is crossed and everybody who takes part experiences so much up-lifting and celebrating of themselves and their talents!

    Kudos to the organisers for a plan that sounds pretty near as perfect as a plan can get. I am so happy to hear you are considering offering your partnering services again.

    Music and dance are truly universal levellers – we all are able to participate in some way. My only regret in my life is that I never learnt to dance well. I participate fully though in my joy of watching those who can and inwardly dancing along with them 🙂

    This post has quite made my day Frank! I am so glad you decided to share this experience.


    • Pauline,
      Many thanks for the kind words. Great point about the leveling effect of music and dance. In this case, the participants probably don’t hear the necessary rhythm of the dance, plus their motions aren’t effortless … but witnessing the joys should bring a smile to anyone with a soft touch in their heart.

      This event is part of the dance instructor’s larger outreach, which like I stated is a post in itself … so hopefully I will start drafting that post soon.

      … and the fact that this post brought you tears of joy tells me a lot about you. So a toast to you!


  4. Frank, I worked with the disabled for 13 years and my husband still works in the field(24years), I can tell you what you have done, and continue to do has provided a world of happiness for them. Kudos to you and your wife. You’re pure goodness.


    • Colline,
      Special it was! Interestingly, I’m not sure how much they saw it as a competition. My wife heard a parent congratulate the participate for making the semi-finals, but she got the impression that the person didn’t understand. And from seeing the reactions throughout the day, I’ve got the feeling she was right. But one thing for sure … they enjoyed the day!


  5. Frank congratulations on gaining a 3rd place in one of the Semi finals… I am sure it was a fantastic event… Big smiles to you both for helping out and volunteering in this way.. .. I was away in dance heaven too this weekend.. Just watching the stars dance! 🙂 Glamour and Glitter and hair and makeup is an essential part of the Ballroom… So pleased you both made a difference…
    Loved this post.. And so pleased you enjoyed your weekend.. 🙂


    • Twixt,
      Anyone can dance … just some better than others .. and I think those with Down show anyone can do it … enjoy it … don’t worry … and enjoy it some more. Nonetheless, a wonderful event.


  6. A wonderful story as I think of what you and your wife did for these beautiful souls – the gift that will keep on giving as they remember their day with special pride and a big smile. You guys are something else, you can’t replace the inner joy of giving.


  7. Frank, this is very special …. what a fantastic event and what a fantastic opportunity for you two do the evening even more special. I understand fully that it was a magical evening in all aspects and for everyone involved. Hopefully there will be some photos and videos released. Personal I would be so over the moon for being able to be involved – so I understand that your senses and experience box is overflowing. A truly magical post, Frank …. thank you so much for sharing.


  8. How wonderful! There is no better example of the last time you did something for the first time 🙂 It’s also a great reminder to us all how much we receive when we give. Thanks, Frank!


  9. Oh Frank, this is so touching. I had tears in my eyes as I reached the end of your story. As a former assistant volunteer to teachers at a Down Syndrome school for pre-kindegardeners, I know the love they can impart.
    I can just picture the smiling faces of these dancers as they whirled around the dance floor. Sweet faces dressed in layers of delicate fabric spinning and dancing their hearts away to great heights of joy. Indeed, at times, we get more from our volunteering than we realize.
    👣 😊


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