San Diegans with disabilities given a night to remember

On any given day, the San Diego Central library is visited by thousands of people seeking to gain knowledge, borrow a book, use a computer or perhaps just sit and relax. But when the sun goes down, it’s a different story.

On November 6, San Diego Park and Recreation’s Therapeutic Recreation Services (TRS) turned the understated quiet of the Shiley Special Events Suite and Qualcomm Dome Terrace into a magical evening filled with food, fun, laughter, music and dancing – lots of dancing – for the 31st annual Harvest Ball.

“Being dressed up like this, having a good time with our friends, is like going to our high school prom,” said Rachel Goldbaum.

More than 150 adults with physical, mental and emotional challenges were decked out head to toe in evening attire to attend the popular dinner and dance.

“I feel like I’m in Hollywood,” said 27-year-old Spencer Duncan.

Adding to the overall experience, for the first time in the history of this event organizers coordinated free hair and make-up sessions for attendees.

“I’m glad they were able to do that this year,” said 30-year-old Robin Sullivan. “It was a lot of fun.”

Sullivan was thrilled with the chic up-do she asked for and received.

“City College Cosmetology students donated their time and talents to help our participants prep for the big night,” said TRS District Manager Kristi Fenick. “Many of the participants have never had their hair and make-up done professionally before. We can’t thank City College enough for their dedication to the community and our programs.”

In addition to biweekly recreation programs and community outings, Harvest Ball is one of several year-round social and recreational programs offered to San Diegans ages three years and older with any disability.

“Other programs include our fully accessible summer camps where participants can enjoy jet skiing, water skiing, surfing and more,” said Fenick. “And there’s the always popular Holiday Extravaganza as well as the Brunch with Santa.”

According to Fenick, TRS is committed to providing innovative, inclusive, accessible and affordable recreation programs which enhance the health, well-being and quality of life for all persons with disabilities.

“Many of our participants are encumbered with medical expenses and because they are on limited incomes, we make an effort to keep costs low, while still offering high-quality programs,” she said.

Community sponsorships are one of the ways TRS keeps costs low. Through the Disabled Services Advisory Council (DSAC), individuals and organizations can financially support programming. In 2014, TRS received more than $65,000 in donations. This year DSAC used $1,000 to help offset the Harvest Ball ticket price, making it more affordable for attendees.

In Duncan’s book, the opportunity to get dressed up and hang out, eat and dance with his friends makes for a very, happy ending.

“I want to say, I’m really impressed with [TRS] actually,” he said with a broad smile. “They stepped up and made it really good.  I’m happy.”

For more information on the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Services (TRS) program and quarterly calendar, click here.

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