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Shady Oaks steps back in time to 1920s for dinner dance


For one evening, approximately 300 people dined and danced the night away as though they were living the lavishly grandeur lifestyles shown in the classic 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby.”

The ornate celebration modeled after days gone by was Shady Oaks Camp’s eighth annual dinner dance Friday, April 22, at Orland Chateau Banquets in Orland Park.

The main highlights for the evening included a silent auction, a live DJ, dinner and dancing.

Scott Steele, executive director at Shady Oaks Camp, a summer camp for people of all ages with disabilities, said the idea for this year’s “Gatsby” theme evolved out of discussions held among those planning for the fundraising event.

“We have a team — it’s our dinner dance committee — and we just kind of brainstorm every year, and that’s where the ideas come from,” he said. “They wanted the 20s, so we went with the 20s.”

Rosemary Strapoli was one of many people in attendance for the event. She said she was enjoying her time spent there.

“[The theme] makes the spirit of everything be happy,” she said. “We need that in our lives, don’t we, with what’s happening in the world today?”

Strapoli added she supports the camp and everything it aims to do for its campers.

“The whole organization is helpful to the kids,” she said. “You know the main thing is the children.”

Terri Matthews was perusing the table of auction items. She said it was her fifth time attending the dinner dance and that she felt compelled to come back.

“It’s for a good cause, it’s a lot of friendly people and you know just to come and help,” Matthews said. “It’s kind of close to my heart. It’s family, so you know you come and support.”

She said she loved the idea of the event having the “The Great Gatsby” as its theme.

“I like all the guys in the fedora hats,” she said.

Therese Lukowski said it’s “awesome” to be a part of the experience for something local that helps others in the community.

“I like the upbeat crowd,” Lukowski said. “I love No. 1 that it’s for a good cause here in my community, and I do love that they keep the camp open because of the event.

“Every year there’s a different theme, so I enjoy dressing up as you can see,” she said. “We have fun. We have a good crowd.”

Steele said the event has continued to grow over the course of its existence.

“We’ve been growing,” he said. “I want to say last year we had 23 tables. This year we have 33 tables, so we’re almost at 300 people already. We’re outgrowing our space.”

Steele said the goal of the dinner dance every year is to bring the community together for a night of fun and to increase awareness regarding what Shady Oaks Camp does.

All proceeds gained through the fundraiser benefitted Shady Oaks Camp.

At the start of the event, it was expected that $30,000 would be raised through donations.

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