There are certain nights in life that we’ll never forget. Maybe it’s high school graduation, the first night we spent on our own, or the first night with a new puppy. Whatever it is, there’s something special about that evening that leaves an indelible mark on our memories, and we reach back to fondly remember it even years later.
But sometimes, the lead up to those events is even more special. For participants of Ranch Ehrlo’s programs for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD), one such event is their annual Awards Night. The night itself is an extravagant celebration for all that our participants have accomplished over the year. Set in a beautifully decorated hall, with friends and family present, awards are handed out in many categories, from employment to athletics to music. Every participant is nominated by staff to be recognized for their strengths and positive attributes, which helps build positive identity and self-esteem. A committee made up of staff from across the agency plans the evening, from the menu to the decorations and spends the days before ensuring everything is in place for the big night.
The participants themselves are the stars of the show, and they look the part. Weeks beforehand are spent preparing, from talking about what the night will entail, to shopping for new dresses and suits, to deciding on hairstyles and makeup. On the day of, they head home early from school or work to indulge in some pampering before the event kicks off. Staff help with updos, tying ties, painting nails, and applying makeup and the excitement is high.
Once they arrive, participants have the chance to take photos with their family and friends who have come to watch them receive their awards. Each participant who receives an award has their photo taken, providing concrete memories of an amazing night that will last until next year’s event.