Four St. Joseph’s Academy seniors organized and hosted the second Justice for All Ball on January 12. The special evening for young adults with disabilities was held in the Mother Alice Hall Community Room on campus.
Seniors Hannah Mistric, Corrine Hutchinson, Skylar Mancuso and Catherine Cangelosi embraced the project after volunteering as sophomores to help with the inaugural ball in 2017. That first dance, which was enjoyed by 19 guests, was hosted by then-seniors Avery Davis, Caitlin O’Connor and Abigail Polson after participating in the Community Builders for Peace Conference with sister school Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, Illinois. Conference participants made a year-long commitment to experience the call to community, peace, justice and reconciliation as part of the charism of the Congregation of St. Joseph. The Justice for All Ball was their culminating project.
After a year’s hiatus in 2018, the dance returned with tremendous success. More than 40 guests attended. “Everyone I talked to said they enjoyed it immensely,” said event chair Hannah Mistric. “It lasted for two hours, and everyone was sad to hear the last song being played. The enjoyment and happiness on everyone’s faces truly warmed my heart.
“I wanted to take on this project because I saw how amazing and fun the first one was and wanted to give these disabled young adults a chance to feel appreciated and loved again,” Mistric added. “This event truly made me realize how much service work improves and brings joy into the lives of others.”
In addition to music and dancing, the evening featured food and games. Volunteers from Catholic High School helped make the game room a lively place, with Giant Uno and Connect Four enjoyed by numerous guests.
Cangelosi said her reason for becoming involved in this year’s dance was personal. “I felt that God put it on my heart to plan an event that could bring joy, confidence and light to others,” she said. “As the daughter of an occupational therapist in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, I felt that I grew up knowing so many kids who would benefit from the cause. With my personal experiences, along with my passion for healing and communion, this opportunity was definitely one that God placed in my path for a reason.”
Mancuso said she jumped at the chance to be part of the team that made the Justice for All Ball a reality again this year. “I remember the first ball and meeting all the guests, and I loved it so much that I would still talk to my friends about it,” she said. “This year, when I saw our guests coming through the doors so excited, I almost started crying. I know that sounds ridiculous, but all the time, effort and stress we put into the night paid off. Not only did I see some new faces, but some of the guests who had attended the ball two years ago returned. Hearing our guests tell us how much fun they were having and how excited they were for the night felt so rewarding. As it’s said, giving makes your heart happy.”
Hutchinson said that after her experience with the ball as a sophomore, she was thrilled to learn that Mistric planned to bring the event back. “When she asked me to be on the planning committee, I jumped at the idea of helping create such a special project,” she said. “Seeing the faces of the guests during the dance, I knew that all the hard work paid off. They were so elated, and they all looked beautiful dressed up. It was another experience that I will never forget, and it holds a special place in my heart.”
More than 40 SJA and CHS students helped make the evening a success. Also lending their presence and support to the project were Principal Stacia Andricain, theology faculty member Hugo Andricain and Dean of Women Erika Angarita.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Josie Musso