Annual Christmas Dinner for Y.E.S. the Arc highlights agency's three decades of service to the Verde Valley

VVN/Nancy James

Penny Vigil, one of the founders and the enduring inspirational executive director of Y.E.S. The Arc, shown here with granddaughter Melanie Young (right) and daughter Rebecca Yound, was honored for 30 years of service to the oganization.

For those who did not attend, the good news is that it is an annual event and, coupled with their spring performance, it affords the public more opportunities to see this marvelous band of performers surmount their disabilities to display their abilities.

Several hundred guests were served a sumptuous Hilton dinner and then the program was under way. Penny Vigil, one of the founders and the enduring inspirational executive director of Y.E.S. The Arc, presented an introduction to the featured performance and the magic began.

The theme of the show was Christmas. Individual members of the troupe sang carols in solo and in concert with the entire chorus. A contingent of the Verde Valley Voices participated in segments of the program.

Parts of the program were given to the dance. The room fills with excitement and joy to see Y.E.S. The Arc folks trip the lights fantastic, jitterbugging, gliding through the tango and skipping through a complex Virginia reel.

The evening’s entertainment was further enhanced by the appearance of Chris Burke, a man with Down Syndrome who has surmounted his disability to become the star of a television series, "Life Goes On." Burke appeared with his two long-time close friends and recording partners, the DeMasi twins, Joe and John. Chris’ inspirational words and the trio’s singing had the audience exploding with applause.

Duane Moore, the lead singer of the country band, Mogollon, is a friend and ardent supporter of Y.E.S. The Arc. He collaborated with Rebecca Young and David Hammons, members of The Arc, for two of the many memorable moments of the evening. Duane closed the musical program with the beautiful song, The Wind Beneath My Wings.

The entire troupe of Y.E.S. The Arc performers joined in and spontaneously drifted toward Moore, surrounding and embracing him, as he sang the lyric, "Don’t you know you are my hero …"

At the center of this magic, the spark that ignites the spirit of these people, the hand that guides them to "soar higher than an eagle" is Jennifer Schauffler-Vircsik. She choreographs and trains all the performers, rehearsing tirelessly and endlessly to produce this wonderful event.

Aided by teams of costume creators and stage helpers, Schlauffler-Vircsik is truly the wind beneath the wings of the The Arc performers.

When you experience this much exuberance and such an abundance of talent, perhaps there is reason to believe the well-spoken words that Down Syndrome might better be referred to as Up Syndrome.

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