‘Please, please, please say yes’

October 5, 2018

Eric Petersen knows what his perfect date would be.

“Stargazing on a beach with a bonfire and s’mores,” he said.

Petersen also knows who his perfect date would be with — Amy Ranken. Although it wasn’t a starlit beach, the couple had a date and dance Wednesday afternoon at a prom fundraiser at Ability Building Center.

Since 1956, the center has helped people with special needs and disabilities learn skills, rehabilitate, find employment and lead as full lives as they can. Companionship is part of that equation too.

“There are a lot of individuals in relationships who met at the center,” said Kristen Lynne, center program manager.

“We meet our significant others through work and school,” she said. “People here find the same opportunity.”

Some of the participants were in prom outfits. Others kept things more casual. Punch and cookies were served, but dancing was more popular than the refreshments.

The event was part of ABC’s week of United Way team-building and fundraising events. It was also a nod to real relationships that have blossomed at the center.

“Everybody deserves opportunities to form meaningful relationships,” Lynne said.

Petersen and Ranken met at the center, and have been dating for more than two years they said. Petersen recalled when he asked Ranken out.

“I was thinking, ‘please, please, please say yes,’” he said crossing his fingers.

Ranken recalled seeing Petersen and hoping he would ask her out.

“It was love at first sight,” Ranken said.

Karl Thoreson and Chelsea Koop also met at ABC about two years ago. Thoreson said he wasn’t nervous to ask her out after being prompted by a friend. Koop said she was glad he did.

“It made me feel special,” Koop said. “Kind of like a gift.”

Some couples, like Phil Weins and Janice Lehman, have been together for years. The couple, who also met at ABC, have been together more than 20 years. Lehman, who is wheelchair bound was still able to enjoy the event as Weins led and maneuvered the chair to the music.

Couples danced to songs ranging from pop to DJ classics “Footloose” and “The Hokey Pokey.”

Chip Smith pulled out some dance moves on the dance floor. His goal: to get noticed. Would it work?

“I hope so,” he said.

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