Liz Sensintaffar is the marketing specialist for Woodhaven, an organization that works with individuals with developmental disabilities.
It was a beautiful night for a party. The air was calm and the sun crept slowly out of the cloudy sky, casting amber rays like spotlights as it bid farewell.
Men and women, dressed in their best suits and gowns, glided up the sidewalk, barely noticing the weight of their bags of canned goods. They lowered their donations gently into the corridor of barrels before continuing on toward the red carpet and the open doors of Lela Raney Wood Hall.
It was June 6, the night of Woodhaven’s Second Annual Red Carpet Gala, and the RSVP list was near capacity. There was a buzz of excitement in the air that amplified with the arrival of each guest. In all, some 200 men and women with and without developmental disabilities attended the gala with the shared desire of giving back to their community.
Because of the generous donation of the discounted use of the Kimball Ballroom by Stephens College and support from Woodhaven’s Tracy Potter Memorial Fund, admission to the formal and festive affair was five food items as a donation to the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri.
880 pounds of food were collected and donated to the Food Bank, nearly double the amount from the previous year.
In addition to the non-perishable food donation, guests had the option of purchasing a 50/50 raffle ticket. Proceeds from the raffle were donated to the Buddy Pack Program, resulting in a gift of $413. The winning ticket was drawn by Miss Missouri Teen USA, Brenda Smith-Lezama.
The First Annual Red Carpet Gala was born out of the desire of the staff and individuals with disabilities supported by Woodhaven to give back to their community and to promote full inclusion for people of all abilities.
“This is not just an event for people with disabilities,” Nick Raines, head of the Gala Planning Committee, said. “It is an event planned by a committee of people with a diverse set of abilities for people of all abilities with the goal of giving back to our community together as equals.”
Woodhaven has supported individuals with developmental disabilities in Mid-Missouri for almost fifty years. Woodhaven empowers these men and women by assisting them in their own homes and supporting them as they work and volunteer in the community. Services are built around the specific needs of the individual and designed to help each person achieve independence and full inclusion on their own terms. As a result, these men and women with developmental disabilities are finding new ways to get involved, make a difference in their community and change the face of ability.
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