On the Friday before Valentine’s Day, love was in the air at Brooklyn Day Hab 5 on Elmwood Avenue. The unseasonably warm weather outside reflected the atmosphere inside the cozy building where staff had decorated the lobby, common rooms, and halls with an explosion of pink and red hearts and balloons.
The Valentine’s Day Speed Dating event at Elmwood Adult Day Program attracted 22 guests from programs all over Brooklyn and Staten Island. As participants waited for everyone to arrive, they passed the time by posing for pictures in front of a Valentine’s-themed photo backdrop in their festive pink and red outfits.
Once everyone had arrived, the people supported and staff filed into the recreation room for the main event—the speed dating. As R&B music played, participants were situated on either side of a long table draped in a red tablecloth. Even those who were not participating gathered in the room to watch their friends find love.
In classic speed dating style, participants were paired up and given five minutes to get to know each other. To get the conversations flowing, staff had prepared questions like “What’s your favorite movie?” and “What do you do for fun?” By the end of the first round, some people were already asking for chocolate roses to give to their matches and were whisked off to another room for their first “date!”
After participants had cycled through all their possible matches, it was time for lunch. The five couples who had found their match sat at round tables (decorated with flowers and more balloons, of course) and chatted as they were served chicken wings and cupcakes.
Nora, who attends Staten Island Day Hab, came to enjoy the Valentine’s Day festivities rather than find love, as she is already engaged.
“I had a good time here,” Nora said. “I came all the way out here to have a Valentine’s party. I loved it!”
Hazel Barrow, the director of Brooklyn Day Hab 5, organized the event to give the individuals who attend our day programs the chance to socialize and to bring an extra burst of excitement to their daily routines.
“Social events such as speed dating are interactive with opportunities for people to interact with peers, make new connections and develop new friendships,” Hazel said.
These types of events also give the individuals we support additional empowerment and autonomy in choosing their own friendships and relationships.
“[These connections] incorporate the philosophy of independent living that says a person with disabilities has the same basic human rights as persons without disabilities,” Hazel said. “It is a method of participating and contributing to societal life, providing the liberty to be self-determined in their social life, and enhancing their self-esteem.”
Finally, it was time for the visitors from Lawrence and the other programs to say goodbye. After a long day of fun, the couples bade each other farewell and headed home for the weekend.
The Valentine’s Day Speed Dating event at Brooklyn Day Hab 5 was a huge success, bringing together individuals from different day programs in Brooklyn and Staten Island for a day of fun and socializing. The speed dating format allowed participants to interact with peers, make new connections, and develop new friendships. For those who found their match, the event also provided an opportunity for empowerment and autonomy in choosing their own relationships. Thank you to habilitation specialists Miccahail Service and Carla O’brien as well as other staff members for organizing the Speed Dating event—we loved it and look forward to continuing it next year!