Friday Nite Funtime keeps community in touch

It was tough for Yvonne Bantoft to show up to the Friday Nite Funtime Dance at Edison Community Center last Friday.

Bantoft had taken her husband to the emergency room that morning, which made it hard for the event director to go to the two-hour dance, but by the end of the night, she was happy she attended.

"There's just a lot of things going on right now," Bantoft said. "It's been a day, but being here and seeing all the happy faces is what does it. … All the smiles and making my brother happy, that's what's most important to me."

Bantoft's parents, Joe and Dolores Segura, started Friday Nite Funtime Dances, which take place the third Friday of each month for adults with developmental disabilities, at the Edison Community Center 26 years ago and are still involved, despite health issues.

Friday Nite Funtime was born out of necessity, Joe said, when their son Martin Segura graduated from college.

"I'd see kids finishing school at the age of 22 and they're gone," said Joe, whose son was born with brain damage. "While they're in school, they have dances for them and activities, but once they leave the school there's nothing for them — no activities at all. We started thinking about what would happen when our son graduated."

Friday Nite Funtime is a Segura family tradition. Joe and Dolores gave up running the event a few years ago when Dolores was diagnosed with breast cancer. It ran for about a year under someone outside the Segura family and was going downhill fast, Dolores said, so Bantoft volunteered to take over.

"We think, 'We should give it up, no, we can't give it up,'" said Dolores, who had surgery to remove the cancer. "It's just amazing how they come and they get so excited. We're happy for them because they don't see each other otherwise."

It's not just a family event, but a community one. Local Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus chapters donate money to the event, which is given insurance and the location by the city. Adams Avenue Donuts has been donating donuts for Friday Nite Funtime Dances for the past 15 years, Joe said.

"It's hard to get going before every third week of the month and you get tired after awhile, but once you're there the evening goes by and the kids just have a ball," said Joe, 74. "We have to keep doing it."

Since 1986, Martin has had something to look forward to every month, thanks to his parents and sister.

"I like the dance because it's really fun," said Martin, who turned 46 on Sunday. "We always help everybody else. We help all the people in Huntington Beach and Anaheim Hills."

Friday Nite Funtime Dances are open to adults with developmental disabilities from all over for a $2 donation at the door, which isn't exactly strictly enforced, Joe said.

"If they have it fine, if they don't have it that's fine too," he said.

Those who came last Friday got their picture taken with Santa Claus, picked up a small gift (pen and pencil set, video or calendar), enjoyed refreshments and, of course, danced.

"It's just having fun, being with all my friends. It's just fun dancing," said 46-year old Mike Gilmore of why he's been coming all 26 years before showcasing an original dance of his own.

Edison Community Center Recreation Supervisor John Valinsky said the event usually draws out more than 100 people.

"The people that have been coming to this dance have been coming for a long time," Valinsky said. "There's not a lot for them. This is something we'll do forever, we plan on having it forever. It's well named, everyone has a great time. It's the best program we have here."

Bantoft said the most people they've ever had before was 200, but estimated about 80 were in attendance at the Holiday Dance Friday night.

"It's word of mouth and the word spreads," said Joe, adding people from Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Laguna Beach, Whittier and sometimes Los Angeles come out.

For the second month in a row, Joe was unable to attend the dance last Friday. He's in hospice with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an interstitial lung disease, but wishes he could still be at the dance.

"When the night's over they're all thanking us and loving on us," Joe said. "The parents are so grateful and it sort of puts a little light in your heart. It's really enjoyable to see them, how happy they are."

Twitter: @TCNShortall

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World