Story by S.L. Hansen
WAVERLY (SNR) — The 53rd annual Villa Marie Dance Jan. 27 will pay tribute to the generosity of the school’s benefactors and volunteers with the theme “Butterfly Garden—Something Beautiful for God.”
The Pla-Mor Ballroom, 6600 W. O Street in Lincoln, will be adorned with floral and butterfly decorations for the occasion. Once again, two bands are lined up for the enjoyable evening. In between Bobby Layne and His Orchestra playing Big Band music and Sandy Creek’s country and rock sets, there will be raffle drawings. A silent auction and baked potato bar will round out the evening’s festivities.
The whole event supports Villa Marie Home & School for Exceptional Children in Waverly, which serves students who need customized education.
The theme came from an inspirational quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta, whom the school is honoring in 2016-17 because of her recent canonization, and the school’s new butterfly garden.
“Do you want to do something beautiful for God?” Mother Teresa had said. “There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
This is a daily call to action at Villa Marie School, for teachers and staff, but also in the way students are taught to live, using their unique gifts to serve others.
The quote also aligns with the care and attention shown by the school’s benefactors and volunteers. That includes Mary Frances Reinke, who has been a regular fixture around Villa Marie School as a volunteer and benefactor.
“Mary Frances is just a Godsend to us,” declared Sister Jeanette Rerucha, M.S., who is in her second year as principal of the school. “We just appreciate her so much.”
Sheila Priess, administrative assistant at Villa Marie, said she thinks of Reinke as something of a guardian angel.
“She has given us hundreds and hundreds of new books for our library for the past several years,” Priess said. “We have also received puzzles, toys, movies, a sewing machine, bread maker, just to name a few gifts.”
Reinke also tends to the spiritual celebrations at Villa Marie. She sends flowers for the altar to be used on feast days or during holy seasons. The flowers are frequently accompanied by cakes or cookies for the students.
Recently, Reinke donated a large butterfly garden to Villa Marie. It features raised beds resplendent with colorful flowers that attract butterflies (and bees).
“The garden was planted by Earl May, and their team invited all of our students to join in with the planting,” reported Priess.
“It was really special,” agreed Sister Jeanette.
She said the garden quickly became a place her students enjoy.
“It provides a peaceful place for our students if they just need to get away and have some quiet time,” she said. “And some of them are very interested in science.”
A birdbath and arbor serve as focal points, but four statues will be added this spring. They will depict the Sacred Heart of
Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint Francis.
“We are all looking forward to the spring to see how the garden changes as the plants and bushes mature,” Priess said.
Always, Sister Jeanette is astounded by the generosity shown to Villa Marie by so many supporters.
“We just can’t begin to thank our volunteers enough,” she said, “Our school would not be where we are without the volunteers who help us out in so many ways.”
Villa Marie is indeed a successful school, if one measures success by student accomplishments. Most of the students come to Villa Marie because a regular school wasn’t the right fit for them.
With diagnoses ranging from Down Syndrome to autism, each student learns academics, catechesis and life skills that prepare them to get jobs and live independently. Above all, they learn to identify and capitalize on their personal strengths as they overcome weaknesses.
“We are always learning new ways that will help them achieve their full potential,” Priess said. “We hope to continue and expand this work of Mary our Mother for the glory of God.”
Now educating 22 students, Villa Marie is currently at capacity for its faculty of three teachers, three paraeducators, various part-time therapists, and the small staff. Still, Sister Jeannette said that families are always welcome to inquire and perhaps go on a waiting list.
All are welcome to attend the dance. Tickets are available at the door, or in advance by calling Villa Marie School at (402) 786-3625. Advanced tickets must be purchased if the attendees wish to reserve a table. Prices are $20 for adults, $15 for college students, $10 for younger students, and free for children 6 and younger.
Raffle tickets are only $1. Winners need not be present to win. Call the school for more information: (402) 786-3625.