by Sasha Reddy
On May 13th, 2022, HAC hosted its first ever Community Fitness Friday (CFF) Prom – though the planning of the event was largely a one-man effort. Personal Trainer Eric Neil, who also runs the Community Fitness Friday program, spent months organizing the event and crowdsourcing volunteers and donations of everything from food and drinks to prom dresses.
Every year, Eric and company attend a local “Night to Shine” event for individuals with special needs. The event, hosted by the Tim Tebow Foundation, has been held virtually in the years since the start of the pandemic.
“So we decided to do our own,” Eric says.
What was initially meant to be a Valentine’s Day dance had to be pushed back from February to May due to health and safety concerns. Luckily, Carl Donato – a HAC member, local DJ, and special needs parent – was able to fit the new date into his busy prom season schedule, and all the heart-themed decorations were saved for the May event.
Though Eric truly was the mastermind of the evening, CFF’s first prom would not have been possible without the help of so many people. Rosemarie Peoples, a long-time Community Fitness Friday volunteer, picked up fresh cut flowers morning-of. Groups of students from Delaware Tech and University of Delaware came by the dozens to hang streamers, tie balloons, and deck out the club with decor. Riley Pennington at the Front Desk helped with hair styling while Lisa Graef crafted centerpieces for the tables. Close friends of the community and complete strangers alike came out of the woodwork to offer their time and resources, ultimately making the event a massive success.
The Community Fitness Friday program is integral to the social lives of so many special needs athletes, and Eric thinks of the prom as a culmination of the growth he’s seen in so many CFF participants. He’s grateful to have been able to facilitate a night that’s “all about them”, and he’s thrilled to see the program continue to expand in years to come.