As detailed in the Features section of last week’s issue, LeVel is a student organization that works closely with the Office of Disability Services. It focuses on raising able-ism awareness and shaping more positive attitudes toward all people, regardless of ability. Casino Night was conceived as an event that would allow differently-abled students to join their peers for a night of fun-filled action and excitement. For the second year in a row, it was a resounding success.
“It was amazing to see what the Pavilion looked like, and you could tell it was going to be successful from minute one,” said Greg Hannah, who works in the Office of Disability Services and serves as the advisor for LeVel. “It’s safe to say there were close to 600 people [at the event]. For the second year in a row, a wonderful turnout.”
Sophomore Rachel Lee, director of events for LeVel, reiterated this sentiment and said she was pleased with how the event grew after last year’s inaugural Casino Night.
“Thanks to all of our incredible volunteers, this year’s Casino Night was definitely a success,” Lee said. “It was so amazing to see so many more people at the event than last year, especially in such a large space.”
For four hours on Monday night, the Pavilion was transformed from a basketball venue into a full-fledged entertainment zone, replete with games, prizes, food and music from DJ Stevie Mix.
There were at least a dozen gaming tables and many were crowded throughout the night, demonstrating participants’ eagerness to get a taste of the Las Vegas action.
“I got caught at the roulette table for three hours,” freshman Alex Mortillaro said. “How often can college students go to the casino or afford to play the tables? This was a great opportunity to meet new people and learn the card games.”
At the center of the floor stood a huge display of prizes that were raffled off at the end of the night, consisting of a week-long stay at an Ocean City beach house, jewelry, dinner with University President Rev. Peter Donahue, O.S.A., tickets to sporting events, a 42” flat screen TV and gift cards to numerous popular Main Line shops and restaurants.
Students from all walks of University life were present for this unique celebration. Freshmen and seniors, athletes and non-athletes and able and differently-abled students joined together for this memorable evening, illustrating both LeVel’s and Casino Night’s philosophies of inclusion and open-mindedness.
“This event truly speaks to the focus of LeVel to change the way people see ability,” Hannah said. “To be a part of the Villanova community is something that everyone wants. To have the opportunity to do that while enjoying a social event that raises awareness and provides opportunities for networking, playing some games and having fun, is a wonderful thing.”
Halfway through the event, all activity ceased as everyone turned their attention to the stage for a few special addresses.
Hannah and Lee thanked everybody that helped them put together the event and also reminded the crowd of LeVel’s origins and ongoing mission.
Lee said that her ultimate goal is for all able-bodied students to view disabled students as “normal” and “just like everyone else.”
Then, she handed the floor over to senior Frankie Kineavy, who, despite having cerebral palsy, has thrived during his time at the University and has been as active and involved as any other student.
Kineavy, who is especially well known for his quick wit and his position as manager of the men’s basketball team, thanked everyone for coming to Casino Night, supporting LeVel and embracing him as a member of the community.
“I want to thank everyone who took a chance on me and helped make Villanova so special,” said Kineavy, expressing his gratitude for the people that have played an integral role in making his four years on campus an unforgettable experience.
He specifically identified these people as Lee, Hannah, LeVel founder Ariana Meltzer-Bruhn and Steve McWilliams from the Office of Disability Services.
Kineavy also thanked the many students on campus with whom he has formed close relationships.
“[My friends] have transformed my Villanova experience and left me with bonds I anticipate I will keep long after we have graduated,” Kineavy said. “Those days I spent watching TV in my dorm room have been replaced with days spent with friends. Thank you guys.”
All of the proceeds raised during Casino Night will benefit LeVel and the students this organization serves.
“The funds will provide opportunities for growth and leadership for our students in LeVel, as well as scholarship opportunities to help with the costs that students registered in the [Office of Disability Services] must face in addition to tuition and fees,” Hannah said.
While the night was immensely successful, Lee explained that LeVel is already thinking of changes it can make for next year.
“The one thing I know we can improve on is utilizing this event as a source of education towards our mission of raising awareness about able-ism,” Lee said. “Next year, we will definitely add more aspects to the night that reinforce the goals of LeVel and how this night benefits our community.”
For now, though, LeVel should be happy with what it has accomplished through Casino Night, an event that is poised to become a hallmark of the spring semester for years to come.
“Casino Night is an event that bridges the gap between those who are able-bodied and differently-abled,” said junior Ryan Siedlecki, reflecting on the significance of Monday night’s celebration. “Intermingling leads to friendships and social opportunities that students didn’t necessarily have in the past. This is why Casino Night is so special.”