What does a brand new hotel, a bunch of people dressed up their finest, a young vocalist, some special guest emcee’s, a country music star and a great cause have in common? They were all in the same room last Saturday night for the annual Jill’s House Gala 2015. A great night for a great cause to benefit children with Special needs.
If you read my blog you know that I am a huge supporter of Jill’s House (click see posts on why I ran the Marine Corp 10k to raise funds for them, meet Emily, my favorite Jill’s House guest and a post about last years gala) and the work they do for families of children with special needs. As a mother of a typical child, I really have no idea about the trials and struggles that parents of children with special needs deal with on a day to day basis. I am so blessed that I can call a baby sitter, send her to Grammy and Pop Pop’s house for an overnight stay and not even think about it. My schedule is not filled with trips to numerous doctor’s visits, therapy appointments or IEP visits at school. I really have no concept of what that is like for people. BUT I do know that even in my world that sometimes I need a break and become overwhelmed. I can only imagine what it is like for those parents who NEVER get that break and live with the day to day challenges of having a child that when not cared for correctly, a simple issue can literally turn into a life or death situation.
Jill’s House is an overnight respite facility for parents of these children. A place built just for those kids where the can come, have a great time, be cared for appropriately and be safe. And this is no ordinary place. It is an over the top fantastic place with a swimming pool, play ground, special rooms for children with sensory needs. A place that was built with the idea that these children deserve the absolute best, not just a facility that was good enough because they might not notice the difference.
Jill’s House is a place where moms and dads can send their children and know that they are ok. Parents can go on a date, to a movie, or just go home to get a good nights sleep. That small amount of respite is precious. And get this . . . it is the ONLY kind of facility like this in the country. Seriously, the whole country. People travel from out of state and very far away to take advantage of their services. As awesome as that is, it is also sad that resources like this are so rare.
It is my absolute pleasure to be involved with Jill’s House. They are the only charity that not only do I clear my calendar when they call, but I will call them and volunteer my time and services for their events. They run a first rate operation that cannot be beat.
If you are interested in visiting Jill’s House they have an open house once a year when the public can come in and tour the facilities. I highly recommend stopping by and checking it out. I promise, you would want to schedule a stay there for yourself if you could. I know I do!
Just like Jill’s House, the Gala was a first rate event. The ballroom at the brand new Hyatt Regency in Tyson’s corner looked so pretty. They did a great job especially considering that they have only been open three weeks.
At these events it is always great to hear the McLean Bible Church orchestra (or a segment of them). Always led in style by the incredibly talented Ben Roundtree. I have known Ben a long time and he is seriously one of the most talented people I have ever worked with.
The night was hosted by Scott Thuman and Alison Starling of WJLA ABC 7 news and they did a great job. If you notice that Alison is a little bit pregnant. If any of you know her, have her give me a call. She is going to be needing my services in just a couple weeks for newborn pictures when that baby arrives. I tried to catch her before she left but it didn’t work out. Seriously, someone hook me up. 🙂
Now, let me tell you about this young lady. Her name is Lexi Walker and to say she is talented would be the understatement of the year. Take some time and check out her YouTube channel. You will not be disappointed. Beautiful, just beautiful. You might have heard her version of Let it Go with the One Voice Children’s Choir. One of my very favorite versions but I didn’t know she sang it until, I did my research.
She brought the house DOWN! With her versions of “Amazing Grace”, “America the Beautiful”and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Not two many people can get that many standing ovations in a 15 minute period of time. Remember her name.
Of course, there were a few presentations and speeches during the evening. This is the Jill’s House CEO, Joel Dillon. He has only been at Jill’s House a short time and it was great to hear his vision for the facility.
The reason Jill’s House is even here is because of that couple right there. Lon and Brenda Solomon. Their daughter Jill has major disabilities and Jill’s House is named after her. Hearing Brenda tell her story and how the vision for Jill’s House became reality is always inspiring.
There were several awards handed out as is the nature at events like this. This year Dave Melcher was presented with the Light of Hope award that was presented by last year’s winner, Phebe Novakovic.
Jill’s House Chairman, Denny Harris presented Representative Barbara Comstock with the other Light of Hope award.
Now here come the tricky part of this post. You did see at the top of the page that I mentioned a Major Country Music Star was also present at the event? Well Mr. Clint Black headlined the evening and did a wonderful job. But Mr. Black also has very strict policies about photography when he performs. When I shoot an event like this I always ask if there are any restrictions. Most of the time, there are not. But this time I was told I could shoot whatever I wanted except Mr. Black during his performance. Say what?!?!? Seriously?!?! I have to admit, I was disappointed. But I honored that request and as a result, I do not have any images of him to show in this post. If you look on Facebook and other social media, you will see lots of images of him from peoples mobile phones and I know that other photographers that evening did not get those instructions (because they didn’t ask – I learned my lesson on that one.) so I am sure pictures will eventually surface of him at the event. But being the good girl that I am I honored the request.
Thank you Jill’s House for including me in “A Celebration of Special Children”. It was my privilege and I am looking forward to next year!
I love doing events but love providing portraits for families and children even more. If you are in need of a photographer for your next family session, I would love to hear from you!
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