Without YoungLives…

On September 28th, 2019, I attended the 4th annual North OC YoungLivesGiving Gala.  This year it was held at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana.  And it was incredible! Not only was everything just perfect, but it was amazing to see how much God keeps pouring into this ministry in such an extraordinary way.

I’m so thankful that YoungLives continues to ask me to be a part of this special night!

This time around, I was blessed with the opportunity to greet and check-in guests as they arrived. It was an unexpectedly windy and grey evening and the check-in table was outside. I was not prepared for the weather and it was cold. However, as soon as the guests started to show up all of that changed. The light and love of Jesus coming from those in attendance – people who continually, willingly, and lovingly support YoungLives– exuded a sense of warmth that not even the sun could have replicated.

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I loved being able to see and assist everyone as they arrived, especially the teen parents.

During dinner, I saw some Teen Moms and Teen Dads get up and make their way to the stage.  I knew what was about to happen. They were going up there to share with everyone how YoungLives has impacted their lives and the lives of their children. This is one of my favorite parts of the night because it’s so special to be able to hear directly from these parents how YoungLives has encouraged and affected them. They always have such beautiful and genuine examples of what God and YoungLives has done for them and their confidence, courage and strength always blows me away.

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They thanked YoungLives for being there for them, for motivating them, for helping them to know they had a fighting chance. They shared their personal dreams for their children. Dreams that their children would see them as an example of what is possible, that they would know they can do anything if they just put their mind to it, that their children would understand their parents fought hard to graduate school and take care of them — that their children would grow to know Jesus.

Halfway through the group of teens I heard, “Without YoungLives, I don’t think I would have ever graduated high school”

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Tears came to my eyes.  Those words were coming from a young woman I met just one year ago at this very same event. A young woman who told me she wasn’t sure if she was going to make it through high school.  A young woman I encouraged to stick it out.  I could tell just from talking to her that she had what it took to get through.

And now here she was, standing on stage declaring that she had done it; she had graduated. Not only had she graduated, she was about to start her college classes. I was overcome with emotion.  And not because of anything I did, but because of what God did for her through the YoungLives ministry.  A ministry she now wants to give back to; where she can help others to overcome similar challenges she has had to face.

Each year, YoungLives is able to provide more and more assistance to teen parents in Orange County because of what God has done to stir the hearts of so many people who come together to make it all happen.  It’s so wonderful to see so many people who consistently step up and step into the lives of these courageous teens who chose life for their children.

Lives are being dramatically altered, hearts are being changed for the better and God’s will is being lived out through your actions.  And all because you’ve chosen to live a legacy worth leaving.

Amber Matos, Volunteer and YoungLives Friend

 

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Amber with one of the YoungLives moms

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Community

Community = a unified body of individuals with common interest, share a common character. Community = a social activity like fellowship. 

As we start the new school year and we get back into the monthly clubs, the word  that comes to mind is community. Wow, did I see our community come together at October’s Santa Ana Club.  Earlier in the week I had the privilege of picking up a truck full of beautiful flowers sponsored by our local Trader Joes. They had interest in our community and played a special role in providing the  flowers.  I personally was happy to arrange the flowers in vases and get them ready for our Club.

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When I arrived at Newsong Church (where we hold Club in Santa Ana), I experienced  community come together to set up the evening. I decorated our dinner tables with the fresh florals so that our room would feel inviting and warm.

As the evening started, the teens were greeted with smiles and hugs from the volunteers that make up our YoungLives community. Our teen parents had the opportunity to pick out donations given from our community of friends.

 

 

By now you’ve probably heard us speak about Laura and her team that prepare and serve the most delicious dinners at the Santa Ana Club – every month. This community of  volunteers planned a baked potato bar for dinner that included chicken, chili, and veggies as well as salad and cheese bread. The room filled with up warm conversations and smiles. After dinner, Sue and Debbie had a beautiful Harvest dessert table set up with delicious harvest bread, muffins and cupcakes.

 

 

Maria had fall interactive games for the teens, building community amongst them. Adrienne shared an inspiring message of Living and Leaving a Legacy. Yvette lead a craft for the evening (and we learned that a friend in her own community provided the hand crafted supplies for craft). The teen moms gathered at the craft tables with the mentors and shared conversations, smiles and crafting skills, building more community.

At the end of the night our God-Loving community of friends cleaned up the place and drove our teen families home. It is so beautiful to me to witness this community of people that gather and fellowship at YoungLives month after month.

Maria Randall ~ Santa Ana Club Volunteer

Sitting at the King’s Table

YoungLives Moms and Dads were invited to Newsong Church to gather together at the King’s Table dinner on August 6th.

img_3281Once a month, Newsong Church in Santa Ana opens up their campus to bless various ministries, and this month they blessed YoungLives.

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Seven couples consisting of teen moms and teen dads and their children where able to attend. Mentors and volunteers picked the young families up and brought them into such a warm and welcoming experience. The incredible dinner was prepared by the restaurant – Toast Kitchen + Bakery. One of Toast Kitchen + Bakery chefs attends Newsong Church and was willing and able to share his gifts through King’s Table ministry.

The couple’s children were cared for by volunteer childcare workers allowing our Moms and Dads to thoroughly enjoy a date night with great food and great fellowship! Throughout the evening, they were ministered to and served by some of the Newsong Church patrons through praise music and inspirational talks.

YoungLives really wants to thank Newsong Church for this wonderful evening and also for opening up their campus once a month for our Santa Ana Club nights (which start up again the first Tuesday in September). ~Fred Cianciolo, Committee Member and Mentor

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A Light House

Earlier this summer my wife asked me, can we host another party at our house? I said yes quickly because I was excited to have people over! Then she said, could it be a swimming pool party? I said yes of course!!!

Then my wife said, could you barbeque for the party? Like 50 burgers and 30 hotdogs??? I said sure, but for who and why so many? Then she smiled and said, for the YoungLives families and whoever else wants to come over to celebrate a great year and a great camp experience.

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Let me tell you, the day we bought this house with a swimming pool, we prayed that God would use it and that we wouldn’t just sit on it for ourselves, and at that moment I remembered that promise and prayer to God: That we would use this house for the many and that it would be a light house for whoever needs it. And at that moment when she asked me to host the pool party, I smiled and teared up. I was humbled that God would bless a man like me to have the honor to host and be blessed by the smiles of kids and babies and their giggles. To get the honor to serve their parents and watch the happiness of everyone around for a moment. MY WORLD STOOD STILL AND I GOT A GLIMPSE OF SOMETHING SO BEAUTIFUL, I GOT A GLIMPSE OF LOVE AND GENEROSITY.

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Our driveway was filled with toys, strollers, cloth, jumpers, you name it and it was there. The BBQ was going on the entire time, laughs were heard at all times, love was overflowing and pure joy was present. Evil was demolished, and fear ran away and for a moment, everything stood still and I got to experience it. Pure love that would restore anything.

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I got to witness amazing girls raising their children and not giving up on their lives, going to school and working hard and still raising their kids and not giving up. I got to witness volunteers giving up their time with their families on a weekend to be here, present beside these girls and us. I saw generosity like never before. I still don’t even know how our driveway got filled so quickly. I saw something beautiful and perfect and it was all covered by God’s love for us all–God’s love flowing out of us all, and God’s love being received by all of us.

I will do it every year until I cannot stand any more, because for that moment, it was all worth it! What God did and what Jesus walked on this earth doing was all worth it.

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Today’s Blogger ~ Yousef Bittar, husband to Area Director Myrna, daddy, & friend to many!

 

 

Snacks & Snuggles at Camp

Lost Canyon Camp, in Williams, AZ is a beautiful place where I was privileged to serve teen moms for a week in June. I was on the childcare team, offering a loving and secure place for the mamas to drop off their much-loved children, while they took advantage of extended time with their mentors hearing the good news of our loving Savior, Jesus. The mountains, the lake, the pool and water slides were the backdrop for the fun, acceptance, laughter, encouragement, activities with friends, delicious food, and heart to heart talks. Young Life staff and YoungLives volunteers went the extra mile to create “The Best Week of Your Life”.

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Camp is a unique experience for everyone. In childcare it’s all about the kids. The gym was where we cared for the 40 toddlers and preschoolers. Some of them jumped right into their play area and tried out every toy. Some needed time to warm up before taking off their backpack and letting go of their blanket. Leaving the familiar and the security of their mama was tough, but our team of adults and teens offered consistent and persistent love. We were rewarded with sweet smiles and laughing while we played together. There was pretending, coloring, singing, PlayDoh, bikes and cars to ride on. Snacks and snuggles. Wow!! Those toddlers and preschoolers never stopped -unless they were watching a movie or just fell asleep in someone’s arms. Some didn’t want to leave the fun at the end of the day!

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YoungLives provided preparation and training before camp and full support and encouragement while at camp. The camp staff and volunteers served with loving hearts and did their best to meet our needs. Each morning I could start the day with a devotional time to ‘be still’ with the Lord in a beautiful outdoor seating area. The dining room offered 24 hour coffee and tea, fresh baked breads, desserts! and delicious choices at every meal. Oh, yes, it was a 5-star camp experience!

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Before leaving camp, the teen moms standing before their peers to declare that they were choosing to follow Jesus proved it was a week well-spent! Relentless and exhausting. Full of fun and joy!

Thank you, Lord! Your love and faithfulness is everlasting!

Elaine Barnes, North OC YoungLives Childcare Coordinator

The Power of Prayer

I feel like there are times when I forget the power of prayer, but when I am reminded, those reminders are powerful.  I have three such examples which happened throughout my Young Lives Summer Camp experience and I would love to share them with you.

The first situation came up before even getting on the bus.  It was Wed (two days until blast off) and I felt myself getting sick.  By the afternoon, I knew this was going to be an issue; however, I also knew that I needed to muster through. I sucked it up and began the packing process.  I checked in on my girls and reminded them of essentials and to be on time and to get some rest. By evening I was curled up in my bed, truly worried that I would bring germs to these beautiful babies or worst, have to cancel.  Instead of wallowing though I reached out in prayer.  I actually went to social media and explained the importance of healing and asked for a covering of prayer.  By the next morning (and 15 comments of true prayer later) I honestly felt re-energized and ready to tackle anything.  I was so grateful that in the trainings we had been reminded to be praying for our girls non-stop, but to also ask for prayer for ourselves.  It was a great example that in today’s world, prayer warriors can be contacted from anywhere and at all times of day.

The second situation happened on Saturday/Sunday.  There were 15 girls and 13 babies in our group and we had a prayer team praying for each and every one of them, but by Saturday evening, I knew the Lord was really working and campers were personally being faced with some hard things to work through. I reached out to the prayer teams at home to be in earnest prayer for the campers especially as I knew they’d be gathering for Sunday morning services. On Saturday the words of the speaker began to break down thick, heavy walls which in turn enabled us as mentors to help rebuild with God’s love.  By Sunday afternoon cabin time we began to see new young women that were being filled up by the Holy Spirit. Prayers were being answered!  If you don’t know about cabin time then I challenge you to go on a camp experience and find out, because God is so apparent in those moments.

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This leads me to my third example of prayer.  In that time of prayer and reflection in the cabin we gave the girls the gift of silence and time to write a letter to God our Father. We as mentors did the same and I have not had such an honest conversation with God in years.  I found myself crying as I wrote down truths and apologies and requests. My requests were not personal ones like a house (although that is on my prayer list) but instead requests to be used by Him. I not only gave Him permission to use me, but I begged for Him to use me.  I verbalized my desire to be a disciple and to make a difference in people’s lives.  I shared my longing to be his instrument and to give me the words to help heal hearts.  I asked to be used in anyway which He saw fit to use me (this ended up getting me into trouble when he chose to use me on the ropes course the next day, but that’s a whole other story).

I was feeling pretty filled up by the camp experience thus far, but my humanity reared its ugly head. Right after seeing God do such amazing things, I found myself crying to another mentor.  In a rare moment of exhaustion, I verbalized my deep ache for some physical example that being God’s tool was worth it.  I had watched at camp as girls cried in mentor’s arms, as toddlers raced to mentors almost as aunts, and as campers and mentors sang together and I was honest in a weak moment of wanting to be affirmed.

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My fellow mentor hugged me and gave me the dignity to verbalize my desires of the heart and thanked me for all I was doing.  I asked if she thought I was selfish and she laughed and said that I was human. She surprised me so much when she prayed that I would get that moment of affirmation which I so wanted and we went back to being there for the campers and their babies.

I never put my desire out there as a prayer request, but it does say in the Bible that where two or more join together in the power of prayer, that prayer will be answered and it was answered on Monday evening.  At our evening time together the entire camp stood outside as the word of God was offered in the form of a Bible.  I can’t go into too much detail, but I can say that as I stood outside under God’s beautiful night sky, I was appreciating His glory and power… when I felt a pair of arms reach out from behind and wrap me into a huge embrace.  One of our campers felt moved to hug me as she heard about the Bible.  I wiped away tears, holding her arms tight, and locked eyes with my fellow mentor and just willed her to feel my gratitude.

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This young mom then whispered in my ear, “do you think we could do one of those things where we read the Bible together and then talk about it? What’s that called?” I literally laughed out loud as I said, “You mean a Bible study? Yes, I would love that.” I reveled in the moment of God answering a barely spoken prayer.  A personal gift which was His icing on the cake of an expertly crafted week.  A week which was filled with so much laughter, food, dancing, singing and fun. A week filled with tears and questions and answers.  A week which ended with three moms welcoming Jesus into their lives for the first time and three more moms reaffirming a desire to walk with Jesus all with their babies at their sides.  A week which led to contacts being shared as moms made new mom friends and as emails were shared to follow up with a bible study.

Now I would like to challenge you, our readers, our support, our sponsors.  Please do not stop praying for us.  I have just shared with you three examples of how prayer was answered. I need you to continue to pray for this group. Pray that these hearts can continue to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pray that these moms will be able to withstand attacks from the enemy on their newfound relationship with the Lord.  Pray that we as an organization can continue to serve where there is such a need.  And most importantly, pray on what your role is to be for the upcoming year.  Who knows, perhaps God is preparing you to be a mentor at camp next year.  Pray on it.

IMG_9102~Theresa Stack, North OC YoungLives Mentor

 

FIFTY ONE!

WE ARE GOING TO CAMP!
Myrna shared the excitement of the upcoming camps in her most current newsletter and we are bringing it directly to you here:

 

F I F T Y    O N E!

51!

Stephanie, Lupe, Amanda, Yaelin, Bernadette, Isaac, Junior, Mason, Sarah, Yvette, Andrew, Steven, Delilah, Liliana……. these are just a few of their names

With your help this Thursday and Friday North OC YoungLives is taking 51 individuals to summer camps!!

To join dozens of other teen moms at a Young Life camp in Arizona, we are sending out:

  • 15 Teen Moms
  • 14 Babies and Toddlers
  • 5 Mentors
  • 6 Childcare Volunteers

To Big Bear for a “Dad-venture”:

  • 8 Teen Dads
  • 2 Male Mentors

I am blown away at the thought of these 51 lives being impacted! Young mamas will get to connect with each other and with volunteers that genuinely care about them. They will get to have fun zip-lining, horseback riding, they will hear the Gospel, experience testimonies, sing, laugh, cry, dance and much more! Kiddos will be cuddled, rocked, and loved on for days. Teenage fathers will kayak, eat, explore, have real conversations, and have safe good fun. Volunteers will be challenged, they will serve, they will connect, they will inspire, they will pray, they will cry, and I am certain they will see God at work.

Would you please join me in prayer in the upcoming days?

Thank you friends for partnering with us all year to make this priceless and truly life-changing experience possible for all fifty-one. I know that many of those kiddos (and their parents) will experience more hope-filled years ahead because of it.

~Myrna Bittar, Area Director of North OC YoungLives

 

 

 

 

Pancakes, Crafts, & Community

This past Saturday YoungLives held its 7th Annual Pancake Breakfast at Lake Park in Huntington Beach. The clouds covered us, some rain drops spit out at us but it did not deter anyone from coming out to the event. Why? What makes people want to get up out of their cozy beds early on a Saturday morning and head out into the overcast cool morning weather? Devotion does. Devotion to supporting people. One can say “I support this ministry” and that is true, but the ministry is people. The ministry is teen moms, dads and their kids. And so, we all got up early and headed over to the park to do our part in supporting these wonderful people. The regulars came out, neighbors who smelled the cooking walked over and new people arrived to give teen moms the opportunity to go away to camp for an opportunity of a lifetime. Our moms get a chance to be teens for one week and laugh as they play games and do activities, to soak in the beauty of nature, to be waited on and showered with kindness by camp volunteers and to have an opportunity to personally hear about and connect with God away from the busyness of their lives.

IMG_9938IMG_4701IMG_9921Beyond the people who chose to come out and spend $5 on a pancake breakfast and extra money on some crafts and delicious treats, it took another group of devoted people to put this all together. There is the team who arrived there extra early to set up tables, bring all of the cooking supplies and stand there for hours to flip pancakes and sausages. There are the local merchants who start weeks in advance in creating crafts and food to bring to sell that morning and who also sit for hours and take time to talk with others, explain their goods and then choose to donate proceeds to the people of YoungLives.

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There are still others who have smaller parts in the morning yet all together it becomes one big fun community event. Year after year the same people and new ones choose to do this out of devotion and care for other people. I personally don’t think this is the “normal” actions of people these days – to do all of these things with no monetary pay attached – and this is one reason why I like serving with the people of YoungLives because they are different as they choose to love and serve others in very unselfish ways and it’s attractive and contagious.

If you missed the Pancake Breakfast, you can still support the moms by donating here.

IMG_4693Lisa Bryan ~ North OC YoungLives Committee

The Heartbeat

A few weeks back we had one of those mornings in YoungLives ministry where I just sat back and thought, “Wow, how did I get the privilege to be a part of all this?”

We were celebrating the YoungLives volunteers at an Appreciation Breakfast. A time where for just an hour or two we get to invite them in to sit, eat, share stories. To try to express to them how much EVERY single one of them play a part in the ‘whole’ of YoungLives. 

IMG_4390IMG_4409Here’s an excerpt from what Myrna shared that morning:

“Running games, dressing up in bacon suits, mentoring, changing poopy diapers, setting up, taking out trash, cooking meals, serving dinner, giving rides, teaching parenting classes, sending texts, decorating, purchasing supplies, teaching craft, visiting new babies, fundraising, showing up, attending meetings, planning, sharing your stories, inviting, folding baby clothes, welcoming, praying, loving on babies, designing shirts, baking, picking up donations, delivering diapers, finding carseats, opening your classroom, advocating, pursuing, sharing resources, picking up snacks, lesson-planning, showing up early… are just a few of the things that you all in this room do to make YoungLives possible. 

You my friends, are the heartbeat of North Orange County YoungLives.

Colleen, Adrienne and I we get to be on staff but we have such a huge admiration for all of you because we know, in part, what all of you guys do and it is crazy!! Together you are a part of something beautiful that is resulting in teen after teen, child after child knowing that they are loved, that they are important, that they are worth it, and that there is a God that loves them! You guys, you all are telling them this story through all that you do- through the many sacrifices that I know you make to be a part of this ministry. Your dedication and commitment even when life happens, as it does for all of us, amazes me! 

So as I led up to this day feeling like I could not possibly express how big of a deal your commitment and sacrifice is I thought of one way that maybe I could tell you— and that was asking some of our past years girls how the PEOPLE in this ministry have impacted who they are today. I asked all girls that were from 5+ years ago. The reason is this, I know that you guys, what you did this year, it is going to impact those young families for 5 years and beyond. And you know what surprised me the most, some of the girls that had the littlest involvement from my perspective had the biggest things to say…

I want to share a couple of their quotes with you….

“The one thing I will never forget about the YoungLives volunteers is that they were always there to give us a helping hand. Making us feel wanted and that we were someone in life not just some teenage girl that got pregnant in middle school or high school. It helped me become the person I am .. Now I just want to be someone that helps others and be there for others”

“YoungLives had one of the biggest impacts on my life because I didn’t think people who knew so little about me could care so much about my well being and my son. God used young lives to open my heart and show me how to accept love/help and be loving/helpful to others.”

“YoungLives for me was one of the best things of all. Even though I wasn’t there for a long time but I learned a lot . One of them was a connection to God.  As a new parent and specially when your a teenager is very difficult you feel like you’re on your own and you don’t have anybody there to communicate but once I went to young lives a change my life in a way that I saw that I wasn’t alone there was also plenty of people that are going through the same thing and they change my life until this day because I am still connected to God and I teach my kids about God and He made me a better person and a better mom and I am very grateful for YoungLives.”

It has been an amazing year! We have seen girls grow, we have many that are excited to go to summer camp and they have no idea what is about to hit them, We have done a full school year being on campuses at 3 high schools, we hired a new staff person-Adrienne, We have walked through some hard things, welcomed new babies in to this world and it has been quite the ride!”

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If you’re thinking about volunteering with YoungLives, just do it…come check out the ministry opportunities at our Fall Kick Off happening on Saturday, August 17 (you can register here). I really believe you’ll be asking yourself, “how did I get the privilege to be part of this?”

~Colleen Drew, Area Office Admin

YoungLives Prom!

This month I attended my very first YoungLives Prom Night! I didn’t go when I was a teen mom because I was way too shy, and way too pregnant, and man do I regret that now! 

The night began with dropping kiddos off in the nursery. Moms and dads were taken by golf carts to leave their kids with familiar childcare volunteers, who created a special party just for the kids with dinner, crafts, and a ton of toys.

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The teens entered the Prom under an arch of balloons, into a room decorated with palm leaves, candles, and beautiful flowers. Each of the girls were given a Mother’s Day bouquet made by Good Flower Co. and the guys got a YoungLives mug filled with candy. Music was playing and they had the chance to visit the photo booth for professional photos by Chloe Atnip.

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After Myrna prayed for the meal, everyone was welcome to grab pizza and salad that was being made fresh throughout the night by Pizzarageous. Dinner was followed with an amazing Ice Cream Sundae Bar equipped with waffle bowls, brownies, and an array of toppings.        D E L I C I O U S!

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I  had the opportunity to talk to many of the moms during the night, and they were all so happy to be having fun with each other, knowing that their children were having just as much fun. Many of the moms were using Prom as their Mother’s Day celebration as well.  

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Before the dance floor opened up, Myrna announced the 2019 Graduates and presented them with certificates, crowned them with crowns and tiaras, and outfitted them with Prom King & Prop Queen sashes. Just by looking at them, you knew that the graduates felt proud of themselves. But also the room roared with cheers and applause, a perfect segue to open up the dance floor. DJ, Luke Sensebe from Premiere Events, seemed to know just how to get the group in the dancing mood!

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Many of the young parents decided to bring their children in to dance with them as well which livened up the dance floor with more extreme cute-ness. It was such a fun and meaningful night, and I know it had a huge impact on everyone in attendance. 

Photo credit all goes to the wonderful Tony J. Matos!

~Jayanna, Mentor