Hillsborough YMCA partners with GiGi’s Playhouse for Valentine’s Day Dance

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On Valentine’s Day, the Hillsborough YMCA volunteers sponsored a special sweetheart dance for adults with special needs.

On Feb. 14, the dance was held at GiGi’s Playhouse in Hillsborough, an organization that provides free educational, therapeutic-based and career development programs for individuals with Down syndrome.

“This was the idea of a group of Hillsborough YMCA members and volunteers,” said David Carcieri, President and CEO of Somerset County YMCA.

An estimated 50 people attended the dance, which is in its first year. The event took volunteers three weeks to organize.

“We received a tremendous response for our first year doing this event,” he said. “It was heartwarming to see the volunteers come together. They pulled this off in about a three-week period. It was sort of a last minute idea they came up with. The individuals that participated really benefited from the experience.”

This is the first collaborative program between the Hillsborough YMCA and GiGi’s Playhouse.

“We have been having conversations with GiGi’s Playhouse on ways we could work together. This is the first of hopefully plenty ore collaborative efforts between us,” Carcieri said.

The Sweetheart Dance was organized through the Hillsborough YMCA’s Togetherhood program. The program is an extension of the national YMCA volunteer-led service program that addresses community needs.

“This program is geared towards members getting together to do some type of community service project and do something to better others in the community,” he said.

DJ Mark Heywood and dance instructors Denel and Eden Bingel emceed the event. People enjoyed Valentine’s cookies and cake. The event also featured decorations that included colorful balloons.

“What we like about this partnership with GiGi’s is that the Y is really for all and we really want to make certain we have an inclusive environment,” Carcieri said. “We want people of all abilities to have a place where they can participate. This was giving individuals with special needs an opportunity to experience something others might take for granted.”

He said as long as there is a need the Hillsborough YMCA will participate in the sweetheart dance for the years to come.

For more information on Hillsborough YMCA, visit www.somersetcountyymca.org.