Generations Converge to Enjoy Sweetheart Dance

Sumner High School students and residents at Stafford Suites assisted living celebrated Valentine's Day early Wednesday night.

Wallflowers were not allowed Wednesday night during the Sweetheart Dance for residents at Sumner's Stafford Suites assisted living apartments.

If you were able, you were dancing, and it was the students of Sumner High School's FFA Club who helped to put on the event in conjunction with program director Patti Salter that ensured everyone had at least one go on the dance floor.

Senior Shania Simons, whose great-grandmother lives at the facility, took the reigns this year in rounding up her fellow students to participate in the event.

Practically, the students earn community service hours, but the dance has a way with putting smiles on teens' faces in spite of themselves. "They know they're giving these people a really good time," said Simons, "and it's a good feeling."

Faculty advisor Greg Pile said this dance was in its fifth or sixth year and represents a collaboration at Sumner High School of the FFA Club along with teacher Andy Wagner who supplied some ballroom dancing lessons for the students, and students in the consumer science program led by teacher Janine Sather who provided heart-healthy concessions for the guests.

For Stafford's part, they provided the live music, which on Wednesday included most of the members of the band The Cowchips. Though The Cowchips, who've been together more than 30 years, are more known for playing country and western swing music, they were able to adapt for the Valentine's day dance, said member Neil Massey. The Cowchips play at Stafford twice a year, he said. (Click here to see them in action on YouTube).

They even played impromptu backup for Sumner High School sophomore Sydney Stoball, who is playing the lead in the school's production of Fiddler on the Roof this year, and wanted to serenade the residents with Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years."

New to Sumner and hailing from Tennessee, Stoball said she comes from a musical family but hasn't been able to perform much with her move. "This was a great opportunity to get back to it," she said.

The sentiment of Stoball's chosen song should resonate with many of the residents.

Charles Hammer, who with his wife Mary Ann have lived at Stafford for the last year and a half, celebrate 68 years of marriage this year. "I met her on a dance floor at a grange hall," he recalled. Hammer said he particularly enjoyed the band, who was able to play a decent waltz. "I love waltzes, two-steps, all the old fashioned dances," he said.

Robert and Bernice Winterfeld, married 64 years next month, likewise, took their turns with the youngsters before enjoying a dance together. "They're real nice kids and so polite," Robert said.

Tony Orlando, who has a bad hip and rested on his motor scooter between dances, also complimented the students, "they done good."

Leading the group, Simons acknowledges it's not easy for everyone to peel themselves off the wall and ask a peer to dance, let alone a senior resident. "You've just got to bug them," she said. "The students have to step up and out of their box to get them to dance."

And the effect is everyone having a good time. "It's really nice to see young kids strike up a conversation with an elderly person," Pile said. "The kids feel good about it."


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