Not everyone is excited to turn 40 years old but it’s always a good excuse to throw a party. Lesha Breighner thought so, too, when she reached that critical milestone last year. Unfortunately she didn’t have the time she needed to book the venue for “the party of her dreams” so she opted for a 40 + 1 Birthday Celebration this past August.
Working with her Penn-Mar Direct Support Professionals, Lisa Hartley and Lizzy Bowman, Lesha laid out her vision.
“Lesha was definitely driving the bus when it came to deciding on all the details,” said Hartley. ”She knew she wanted a formal party in a beautiful venue and she had very specific ideas about how the event would be presented.”
There was so much work to do in the four months preceding the event that according to Hartley they soon began to feel like professional wedding planners. “We took all of Lesha’s dreams and ideas and did what we could to bring them to life. Lesha was involved in the entire process, made the final decisions on everything, and we made sure she had the access to make it all happen,” recalls Hartley.
“It would be an easy trap to fall into to think that Lesha wants to have a party and we end up planning it for her,” said Hartley. “But we made sure it was about Lesha and her vison.”
A visit with Hartley to Lauxmont Farms in Wrightsville, PA convinced Lesha that she had found the perfect setting for her celebration. She reserved the glass, light filled rotunda, a circular building on the property overlooking endless rolling hills and pastures of majestic stallions and an unsurpassed view of the Susquehanna River.
With the venue secured, she set about to plan the agenda and design her invitations. She requested that all her guests wear black so that the birthday girl would “stand apart” in her deep maroon semi-formal dress.
Lesha worked with the florist to design her table centerpieces, settling on a purple and white color scheme in homage to her favorite professional football team, The Baltimore Ravens.
Moving on to the food and beverage requirements, Lesha chose the caterer; finalized selections for the menu, elegant table settings and the beer and wine bar; booked the DJ and a Photo Booth in a VW Bus; and ordered a two-tiered birthday cake in her favorite flavor.
Invitations went out and some 90-plus people accepted with pleasure. Everything was ready-set-go.
Until the caterer didn’t show up, that is.
A communications snafu had everyone “running around with their heads cut off backstage for a while” recounted Bowman, but it wasn’t long before she and Program Manager Ally, and Hartley’s brother and sister-in-law raced to the local food market and loaded up two shopping carts with dips, cheeses, crackers, assorted finger foods and plastic utensils and glassware
Family members and guests worked the bar (wine only), the DJ switched from soothing dinner music to Bruno Mars dance beats – including Lesha’s favorite song, Uptown Funk. Guests hopped up on the dance floor, the photo booth was churning out film strip keepsakes, and Lesha, with flowers in her hair and the embrace of her mother, grandmother and Pappy, cried tears of joy. The party of her dreams had become a reality. It was, as Hartley described, “a huge moment for her.”
And there’s more. In a gesture of goodwill, the obviously distraught caterer immediately offered to throw Lesha a complimentary party for 30 of her closest friends.
And while Hartley and Bowman are still catching their breath, Lesha is ready to start the plans!