February 17, 2017 | Greenwich Sentinel

Around 100 people put on their dancing shoes and enjoyed some quality time together at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center, as Abilis hosted its annual Valentine’s Day Dance. It was a great success,” said Lisa Bria, activities manager at Abilis. “Everybody had fun and there was a lot of dancing and food. Everybody had a really nice time and that was great for me to see.”

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Abilis, a nonprofit organization that provides services and support for individuals with special needs, put together the Valentine’s Day Dance as part of its ongoing winter program schedule. The $25 fee for the dance included party games, prizes for best costume, music, dancing and food. “They look forward to it weeks in advance,” Bria said. “That’s all that they talk about. They plan what they are going to wear, who they are going to go with and who they are going to dance with. Just like everybody else, they get excited when big things happen in their lives.”

While the dance was exciting for the partygoers that made the trip to the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center, it was a rewarding experience for Bria. “We just want to make their lives better and have them out there in the community doing things, like every other person,” Bria said. “I started here in December and I know that they have annual dances. They have the Valentine’s dance and we are thinking about putting together a spring dance.

There’s also a Halloween dance. Our clients really look forward to these dances and coordinating it for them and our staff is amazing. We have lots of help and we all just pitch in and work together to better their lives.” And when it comes to preparing for the Valentine’s dance, Abilis didn’t just throw the party.They also helped, when needed, getting the clients ready to rock out.

“Our residential managers and residential staff definitely oversee what they wear and take them out if the client wants to buy a new dress or take out guy out for a new suit,” Bria said. “Whatever they want to wear, we will help them get what they want.” The fun doesn’t just stop with the Valentine’s dance. On Saturday night, Abilis is putting on a sweetheart dance, where 13 couples travel across town to the Arthur Murray studios and get a dance lesson.

“They dance together, dress up and it’s like a really formal thing that they are really looking forward to,” Bria said. In March, Abilis plans on trips for its clients such as an all-inclusive adaptive ski trip to Windham Mountain and tickets to a special Broadway performance of Aladdin for an audience made up of children and adults with autism spectrum disorder or sensitivity issues. In addition, Abilis plans to keep the good times rolling with movie afternoons, ice skating, musical theater and cooking classes, bowling and karaoke night.

“Abilis is committed to providing a comprehensive calendar of recreational programs appropriate for people of all ages and abilities in our community,” said Abilis president and CEO Dennis W. Perry in a prepared statement.