A fun time for families
By Sue Ellen Ross Post-Tribune correspondent February 26, 2013 3:46PM
Angelina Kotlowski, 8, hangs onto her father Tim Kotlowski during the Annual 'Sweetheart Dance', at the Jean Shepherd Center in Hamond, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 28, 2013 6:09AM
Six-year-old Haylee Neehan loves to spend time with her dad Jason, but doesn’t always have the opportunity to have his undivided attention for a whole evening.
That changed recently, as the duo attended the ninth annual Sweetheart Dance at Shepherd Center. Sponsored by the Hammond Parks and Recreation Department and the Hammond Parks Foundation, hundreds of families enjoyed an evening of many activities.
“We already danced to the music, ate some, took our picture, and I’m ready to go dance again,” Haylee laughed, as dozens of youngsters and their partners took to the floor. “It was awesome. Daddy is a good dancer.”
Hundreds of other attendees observed the dance moves as all listened to the music provided by D J. Casey Ramos Sr. of Hammond.
Also offered at the event were raffle items, including a tool box, fitness center certificates and t-shirts. The Hammond Police Department offered fingerprinting and photographing of children.
They have provided this service since the annual dance first began.
Min Li and her son Frankie, 6, patiently stood in line as they waited their turn.
Their family recently relocated from China to Hammond. Li works as a language teacher at a local high school.
“We want to become acquainted with American customs,” Li said. “This (dance) is a great opportunity for us.”
The Melendez family of Hammond puts this annual sweetheart dance on their to-do calendar each year, and each of the three children in the family remind Mom and Dad when the date is near.
“We have our pictures from every year in an album,” said Serena Melendez, 11. “As soon as my dad gets here, we’re going to do another one for this year.”
Volunteers distributed the food and handled other tasks at the celebration.
Purdue Calumet student Jose Menzez, representing the Alphi Psi Lambda fraternity, manned the popcorn machine.
“This is my first time here, I didn’t expect this many people,” he said, as he refilled the large machine in front of dozens waiting in line. “This is a fun way for families to get together.”
And judging by all the happy faces, both on and off the dance floor, he was right.
“I’ve never seen so many parents and grandparents dancing with their children,” said grandmother Geralyn Martin of Hammond. “What wonderful memories they are making!”