Who knew going to prom again would be so much fun?
Although I worked on the Aurora Public Library Foundation's "Prom Revisited" event for quite a few months before it took place on Friday, Nov. 15, I wasn't exactly sure how the event would go until about 6:45 p.m. that evening.
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When I saw people arriving in their prom finery -- including our library board president in a blue velvet tuxedo jacket, a foundation board member in a yellow leisure suit and a guest wearing her prom court sash from 2006, I knew it would be a good night.
The venue for our event was the Fox Valley Park District's Prisco Community Center, and it was the perfect place because of its high ceilings and wide open spaces. All we did was add lots of balloons and tissue paper flowers, and it took on the look and feel of a high school gymnasium!
That's exactly what we were going for, since the intent of the event was to call attention to the Teen Center in the new library that is under construction in downtown Aurora, and to ask attendees to help make it the best it can be.
But no one was happier to be there, I think, than the five couples that made up our Prom Court. The Prom Court idea was conceived early in the planning. We discarded the idea of choosing just one Prom King and Queen because we wanted a number of people to feel like kings and queens for the evening.
Our Prom Court included: Dee Basile and Peter Metrou, Penny and Ken Cameron, Juliette and Sherman Jenkins, Georgette and Rob Prisco and Michelle and Scott Voris.
One of our honorees asked how we did the choosing, and, quite frankly, we opened it up to our Imagine…the possibilities event committee and they made suggestions and final decisions.
Dee Basile and Peter Metrou say the library has been an important part of their lives. As a child, Dee remembered, her mother would bring her to the library for storytime. Dee also remembers making herself slow down when she was reading a great book to make it last longer! And, she fell in love with Broadway and movie scores by checking out records at the library.
Peter, who originally is from Greece, spent many hours in the library upon moving to Aurora at the age of 17. There, he learned about American culture and prepared himself to graduate from East Aurora High School and continue on at Aurora University.
Penny and Ken Cameron also were members of the Prom Court. They say they know firsthand how the library can impact a person's life.
When the Camerons moved to Aurora, Ken was working long hours for IBM and Penny was a teacher. That first summer, Penny was alone during the day while Ken was working . She didn't know "a soul." Penny walked downtown to the library and the librarians became her best friends, she said. Ken grew up on a farm in a town without a library, so he had no choice but to read all the books at school and in his home -- several times over. Today, Ken is a speed reader who reads between 1,000 and 1,200 words per minute and averages 100 pages per hour.
Prom Court members Sherman and Juliette Jenkins agree that libraries are the cornerstone of every society, going so far as to call them "priceless." They believe that libraries are a place for children of all ages to experience the world without leaving their home town. They also feel that the library can support the teens of Aurora by providing cutting-edge technology that teens may not be able to afford.
But cutting-edge technology is not enough for teens today, the pair agrees. "The library needs to provide events and activities that are both educational and entertaining, they said, adding that "the support can be as simple as providing a place for teens to meet."
Georgette and Rob Prisco believe that a community "can't do anything better for a child than teach him or her how to read."
Like the Jenkinses, they believe that libraries are the "cornerstone of culture, learning and civilization."
Georgette, who grew up in Houston, remembers taking the bus to the library with her twin sister in order to check out the maximum 10 books per person. Once they each finished their books, they would swap and read the other's books. The Priscos think teens in Aurora need to learn to use the latest technology to help them excel in school.
Michelle and Scott Voris, parents of four daughters, know how much their daughters have benefited from the library. The girls walked or rode bikes to the library, and storytime always was a family favorite.
The Vorises know that many students without Internet access at home use the library to complete homework assignments, and believe that continued high-quality programs are essential to bringing even more teens in.
Our Prom Court had the honor of having the first dance of the evening to "Stairway to Heaven," and they also were called up one by one to receive a small token of our appreciation for their service to the community.
Of course, we could not have a big even like "Prom…Revisited" without our sponsors. This year's sponsors were:
Alarm Detection Systems, Clear Perspective Advisors, Cordogan Clark & Associates, Dreyer, Foote, Streit, Furgason & Slocum, Engineering Enterprises, Inc., Graphik Jam, Sherman and Juliette Jenkins, KDI Design, Inc., Outsource Solutions Group, Inc., R.C. Wegman Construction Company, Reuland Food Service, John and Jean Savage, Schoppe Design Associates, Inc., Cal and Judy Stoney, The Strathmore Company and Waubonsee Community College.
Members of the "Prom Revisited" committee were: Ree Kline, chair; Kelly McCleary, auction chair; Anu Baloo, Judy Dawson, Jo Fredell Higgins, David Lewis, Marge Nichols and Brigit Reuland. Staff who worked on the event were Laura Stoney and yours truly.
Hats off to the Waubonsie Valley High School Diamond Steppers who entertained the group with their step team performance, which got the evening going on just the right foot.
And of course we had a number of volunteers who helped make the evening enjoyable, including teen volunteers Alma Luna, Celeste Aguirre, Becca Pearson, Sami Neumann and Kara McCleary. Two other volunteers (though not teens anymore), were Ian McCleary and Ruth Gonzalez. Staff volunteers were Hannah Berry, Diane Christian, Elaine James, Peggy Maiken, Ron Pauli and his wife, Lisha, Ginger Pebelske, Bonnie Tilton Sebby and Mark Sloan.
Another volunteer that must be mentioned is Ron Langstaff, who was our prom photographer for the evening. He took photos of each couple under an archway of colorful balloons with a starry night background. After all, what is prom without a keepsake photo?
Again, the event was to put the spotlight on teens, who need collaboration space, the latest technology tools and just a place to call their own in the new library. A live auction focused on specific needs for the Teen Center, and hands went up all over the room for the opportunity to purchase a computer table, book stack or book for the teen space.
The numbers are not yet all in on how much was made in total at the event, but more than 225 people attended , bid on live and silent auction items, ate a delicious dinner prepared by Reuland Food Service, and danced the night away.
The next large Library Foundation event will be in the new library in the first half of 2015.