Best Buddies Gala + cellphone pic of a chandelier on Niko's head

"You must be Mrs. Niko!"

"How did you know that's what my vanity plate says!"

And with that welcome, we kicked off our evening at the seventh annual Best Buddies Illinois Gala hosted at the ballroom of the Four Seasons last night. It was one of those nights where my jokes were all working out until the third glass of wine. That's when I tried to work a Wayne's World reference into a gay dad conversation but everyone was either too young or clearly not watching enough TV on Saturday nights in 1992. Social awkwardness aside, Best Buddies put on a beautiful event, an impressive silent auction, a delicious dinner and even laid down some pretty funky tunes. Did you know I've had two kids and I can still dance in 4-inch heels? (You: Get to the part about your hilarious tradition of embarrassing Niko during live auctions. Me: Done!)

Poor Niko, I always do this thing during the portion of events when they auction for charitable bids. I pinch his arm and say stuff like, "raise your hand!" during uncomfortably high bidding. They'll be asking for loco money and I'm like, "go ahead! it's charity!" It's so funny. Oh, and sometimes he does it. I really am married to a decent guy. Besides, why should we save for retirement? We're all going to die anyway! Actually, I forgot all about the Mayan apocalypse until right now. What do we have guys, seven days? [Phone rings.]

Let's get serious for a minute though. Flip on the lights. When we were pregnant and living in fear after some wonky tests indicating Stella had a higher chance of Down Syndrome, my thoughts were just on the outside welcome mat of the Grand House of Families of Disabled Kids. We were worried about stuff like if her heart had all four chambers and would carry her to her first birthday. Thankfully, we were only brief guests on the porch of that proverbial house because Stella was born healthy. I heard a speech last night that helped me peek beyond that front door and understand how the worries of parents of disabled children change with time. As infants and children, parents worry about immediate health problems, but as these children face adulthood, aging parents of disabled children worry how their child will care for himself. If she will have friends. If she can become employed and enjoy the dignity that comes with paid work.

The answer to these worries is combated with the Best Buddies program. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are matched up with volunteers and friendships are formed. Beyond that, Best Buddies works with companies to see the value and use of hiring individuals with Down Syndrome. Walgreens, for example, is a shining beacon of this development in practice. One out of every eight people Walgreens hires is a person with a disability. Brav, o.

My other take-away of the event, besides a swag bag with some delicious candy (mmmm, candy) was the seriousness and hurtfulness of using the R-word. It just deepened my loathe for Ann Coulter. Her fascinating monkey hands are her only redeeming feature now.

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If you are wondering why I am so happy lately it's because of the Vitamin D supplements. Seriously, it's like a surprise penny. I feel fantastic! Take your D, people!

Filed under: Field Trips, You fancy

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