Wednesday, November 21, 2012
A festive Halloween spirit, complete with costumes, decorations, games, prizes and socializing, provided a fun treat for 25 special-needs guests hosted by Rider’s Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) at its fifth annual Bingo Bash on October 19 in the Mercer Room of Daly Dining Hall.
Rider’s CEC chapter – more than 40 active members, all students in the School of Education – invited young adults with varying cognitive and developmental disabilities from the Mercer County area for some not-so-spooky fun, beginning with bingo games and prizes. Partygoers donned Halloween costumes, as well as face paint, glitter, and plenty of smiles, to fill the room with bright colors.
Six months in the planning, the event is an annual highlight for students and their guests alike.
“I can’t even really describe it. It beats any party you can go to!” said Licia Keevill ’13, vice president of Rider’s student-run CEC chapter. “Everyone is just so happy to be there, and you won’t find any other place where that will happen. You walk into the room and their happy faces and gratitude greet you. You can’t help but enjoy yourself!”
Maria Ingargiola ’13, CEC president, agreed.
“As Special Education minors, this is what we are training to be – this is it!” she explained. “This is what we are in training to be ‘doing for real,’ and that’s what makes it so fun!”
Dr. Michele Wilson Kamens, professor and director of Special Education programs, beamed with pride as she surveyed the scene at the Bingo Bash.
“I’m always impressed by the way our students interact with the young adults, and how they embrace it with such enthusiasm,” said Kamens, a vocal advocate for the extensive community work organized and performed by her students at Rider. “They genuinely enjoy what they are doing.”
The party shifted gears at the arrival of 10 steaming pizzas. CEC members served their guests slices, salad and soft drinks before joining them at their tables to socialize and get caught up on what’s happened since they last met. Soon, the games start up again, with bingo winners enjoying their candy prizes.
The party transitions between events without a hitch. Kamens, who along with Dr. Diane Casale-Giannola and Dr. JoAnne Vesay, serves as co-advisor to CEC, knows that this seamlessness is a product of the forethought and planning by CEC members to make the event a comfortable and enjoyable experience for everyone. Financial support for this year’s event came from the CEC members themselves, via their annual dues, Kamens explained. As the evening continues, students work together to fill empty plates and cups, chat with their guests, playing the role of gracious hosts to perfection. Every guest receives a Halloween goodie bag at the end of the evening.
“I don’t want the night to end,” said Ingargiola, the CEC president, as Keevill nods in agreement.
“This how I know I chose the right major,” Keevill said. “All of our planning is worth it. Hanging out and being here tonight – that’s how I know this is exactly what I want to do.”