Elsewhere in the room was Janina Aubrey, who had traveled from Massachusetts with five other people from Cape Abilities, a nonprofit in Hyannis on Cape Cod that serves people with developmental and physical disabilities.
Janina wore a long black ball gown. She was excited to be in Washington “and staying at the hotel and seeing a lot of people there. And seeing Obama inside the room with his picture up there. I like his wife and his two kids.”
Janina, now 49, said she felt happy at the ball, “with all the people. We ate dinner, then snack, then salad, then drink coffee, then water.”
She took a picture with a cutout of the newly elected president. But she was no stranger to celebrities. She knows the Kennedys, through their support of Massachusetts nonprofit groups that support people with developmental disabilities. She was a star in the Special Olympics and had recently received an award from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrickfor putting together the most informational packets during a competition sponsored by the state tourism council.
After the ball, the Stafford Foundation asked the groups represented that night what could help them. Earl Stafford traveled to Massachusetts and toured one of the Cape Abilities sites. “We showed him what we were doing with the Centerville Pie operation, which was small-scale at that point. We were peeling apples and deboning the chicken to be used in chicken pies,” said Larry Thayer, 64, president of Cape Abilities. After the tour, Cape Abilities received a grant for $20,000 from the Stafford Foundation, allowing the group to expand its kitchen.
Later, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver died in August 2009, Cape Abilities members were asked to serve as honor guards at her funeral.
Oprah Winfrey attended the funeral.
Oprah often says: “In life there are no coincidences.”
After the service that weekend, two pies from Centerville Pie Co. were delivered to Oprah and Gayle King at their hotel. Oprah asked the pie owners to appear on her show. Later, she named the pie company one of her 25 favorite things. Publicity about the pie company exploded. Requests for orders soared. The owners of the pie company asked Cape Abilities for more help to meet increased production demands. And Cape Abilities was able to hire 30 more people with disabilities to help produce more pies.
When the house lights came on about midnight, Elaine and Emily wondered where the time had flown. The whole night was surreal.
Emily caught a Metro bus home. “It was cold that night. It was exhilarating. People were asking me, ‘Are you just coming from the ball? How was it?’ I was being interviewed by total strangers. They wanted to know what it was like. ... I felt like I was floating, walking up the street, like anything is possible.”