Couples With Disabilities Celebrate Their Love

ELIZABETH – English poet Alfred Tennyson said in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. At the recent Couples Night celebration of Community Access Unlimited (CAU) spring brought a slightly different approach to love – fancy but not so light.

Last month, 22 couples who are members of CAU dressed to the nines and celebrated their love at the annual event, joined by guests, family and staff members. The evening had a New Orleans theme, lively music and dancing – not quite what Tennyson envisioned in his poem set upon the soft lawns of Locksley Hall. The event was held at the Suburban Country Club, however, so there was plenty of grass in sight.

“At CAU we are committed to enabling people with disabilities to live full and happy lives within the community,” said Sid Blanchard, executive director of CAU, which provides support and housing services to people with disabilities and at-risk youth. “That entails living in their own homes, learning life skills, recreating, working if they choose and being active in the community.

“Perhaps nothing contributes to a fulfilled life more than love and having someone with whom to share your life. That is why each year we celebrate those couples among our members who have found love with one another.”

Amanda and Wesley Strond have enjoyed a storybook romance, meeting when they were in grammar school. They were married six years ago.

“I made a promise to her mother that I’d marry her daughter before she went home to be with the lord,” Wesley said. The weather report was threatening the day of their wedding but the storybook theme played out.

“We prayed to the Lord not to let it rain,” he said. “We got married and had the reception outside in the community back yard (of their apartment complex). Then we went back to church and it started pouring down rain. I said, ‘Thank you, Lord.’”

While God and Mother Nature were kind to the Stronds, due to budget cuts the government has been a little tougher on Cassandra Smith and Michael Roemisch, who have been dating since November 2010.

“We used to see each other every day but since the government took away my Medicaid I can’t go to the day program every day,” Roemisch said.

The couple enjoys the time they have together, however. They go bowling, where Roemisch gets to show off his talents, and plan to marry in the future.

Couples Night marked an anniversary for James Emann and Rose Veale, who began dating March 30, 2010. The couple met when they both lived in an institution before coming to CAU, where their friendship blossomed into a romance.

“I like listening to Jimmy sing,” Veale said.

“I sing Elvis,” Emann added, before taking his sweetheart onto the dance floor and serenading her with a rendition of one of the King’s greatest hits.

The couple also appeared in a talent show with Veale performing back-up vocals. They plan to become a permanent duo by getting married in the future, although there is no rush.

“We’re taking it slow,” Veale said. “We might move in together first.”

In kicking off the evening, Blanchard raised a champagne glass and said, “I’d like to make a toast to all the relationships that have been celebrated here, last year and the year before, this year and in years to come. May we all have a wonderful life and may all our special relationships be filled with happiness and joy.”

The collective clinks of glass that followed represented much more than passing fancies.

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