It was difficult to spot a lonely heart at Thursday’s Valentine Day dance.
Of course, it didn’t take much for Brad Stone and others associated with annual event held in the small gym at Manteca High to provide a memorable time for the estimated 150 special needs students from throughout the county.
“They look forward to coming here every year,” said Stone, who is the instructor for the special day class for the severely handicapped at MHS.
For the past seven years, he’s been involved with the Valentine Day dance that started modestly years ago with just a few students.
Carmen Graham, who serves as Stone’s aide, remembered those days. She’s been with the Manteca Unified School District since 1987 as a substitute, and, in 2007, became the special day school aide.
“It started out in the (MHS) cafeteria with just our students,” said Graham. “But after a while, we were getting fewer and fewer students.”
That’s when the event was retooled and made county-wide to include other young adult programs.
Instead of afterschool, Graham noted that the dance was moved to regular school hours. “A lot of the students didn’t have transportation (for afterschool),” she said.
With more students – included were about 50 volunteer adults and students from the leadership program and the yearbook staff – the Valentine Day dance had to be relocated to the small gym on campus, according to Stone.
“We figured there were nearly 200 people here today,” he said.
Organizers were especially thankful for the outside support that again made the day possible. The MHS student store, for example, chipped in with $300. Stone said his students came up with donations.
Matt Tate, who is the special day school instructor from Sierra High, brought in a dozen of his students to the function.
He was proud to see many having a good time on the dance floor – Sierra High band director Brad Hammarstrom helped out as the deejay – or socializing with students from the other programs.
Terrel Posey came dressed for the occasion, sporting formal wear. Another of Tate’s students, Jonathan Crockett, was crowned the 2013 Valentine King.
Feona Tolentino of East Union reigned as 2013 Valentine Queen.
The selection of king and queen were handled randomly via drawing.
“Each program entered (the names of) two boys and two girls in separate boxes,” Graham said. “One each was picked.”
Students were treated to a lunch consisting of spaghetti shells, salad, oranges, cookies, candy and chips.
By noon, the king and queen were announced. Students also came away with prizes via a drawing and photos with the Buffalo mascot as taken by the yearbook photographer
“This (Valentine Day dance) started out small and now we’ve grown to what it is today,” Carmen Graham said.