Meelia welcomes back guests for 31st Valentine’s Day dance


Courtesy / Saint Anselm College

Student volunteers are instrumental in making the event happen and love the opportunity to “bring smiles to so many faces”

Maya Pontes, Crier Staff

On Saturday, Feb. 11, the Meelia Center hosted its annual Valentine’s Day Dance in the Carr Center. This year marked 31 years since the start of the tradition, a celebration that was greeted with great excitement, as it was the first dance in two years.

The event held approximately 150 guests, welcomed by student and staff volunteers representing the College, a variety of clubs, and the Meelia Center. 

The Valentine’s Day Dance aims to bring individuals with intellectual and cognitive disabilities together with members of the Saint Anselm College community for a fun afternoon of dancing, crafts, and snacks. 

Leading the planning and execution were Meelia Center Community Events Coordinator Ellie Carlson-McNally ‘23 and Co-Coordinator Gigi Goulet ‘25. The process involved months of work alongside full-time staff members as well as the Community Events Team. Invitations were sent, word was spread, and volunteers were recruited leading up to the Valentine’s Day season. 

Having been held online for the past two years, this year’s dance was bound to be exciting according to Goulet, “this is the first year that we have been back in person since 2019. Many of our guests have been coming for years and were so happy to be back.”

“While we were able to hold a smaller dance online during the early years of the pandemic, it just wasn’t the same as bringing everyone together,” Nickie Lora, Director of the Meelia Center, remarks. 

The morning of the dance, volunteers and coordinators decorated the Carr Center and set up stations for beverages, popcorn, Valentine’s Day themed arts and crafts, and, most importantly, the DJ station, which would set the stage for hours of dancing. 

The event proved to be a hit. Guests and students alike created heart-shaped glasses out of pipecleaners, exchanged handmade valentines, and danced to 80s classics like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and more modern songs such as One Direction’s “Best Song Ever” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Line dances were popular among attendees as well, with large groups joining together on the floor for the “Cotton Eye Joe” and “Cupid Shuffle.” 

 For Lora, “It was like welcoming old friends back, while introducing our new students to the magic and joy of this campus tradition.”

“It was absolutely fantastic to see all of the guests’ faces in person again,” Carlson-McNally says. “Some of the guests have been attending the dance for decades, and to be able to put on an event that brings smiles to so many faces is amazing.”

As the event came to a close, guests received carnations in pink, red, and white before they exited through the Carr Center doors. 

 For Goulet, the most memorable moment of the day came at the end when one of the guests handed her his carnation and thanked her for having him. 

All members involved shared equal excitement and gratitude for how the event panned out. “It was such an uplifting feeling to hear that everyone was so excited to be there and that they still looked forward to it after being away for so long,” Carlson-McNally notes. 

“We are so grateful for the guests who continue to come to the dance and for the students who continue to organize it, both make the dance possible,” says Lora. 

With another successful Valentine’s Day Dance accomplished, the Meelia Center is thankful to everyone involved who made this year’s event possible and looks forward to the next time they can welcome the guests back to campus.

Nickie Lora, director of the Meelia Center, dances with attendees.