Isabelle Olenik can finally say last year’s Lancaster Snow Ball dance was a success.
Last year, the then-homeschooled high school senior organized the inaugural Lancaster Snow Ball. It was the first of what she hoped would be many dances that give homeschooled students a chance to experience a typical high school-style dance, while raising money for a good cause.
The event was everything she hoped it would be. It brought together about 100 homeschooled students for a night of fun and friendship. And it raised more than $3,500 for the Clare House — a local nonprofit that aids women and their children with the challenges of homelessness and unemployment.
There was one more thing Isabelle wanted before she knew her event would be a success: for there to be another one. And for it to become a family tradition.
She got her wish. Her younger siblings, Reese Olenik, 16, and Maggie Olenik, 14, both homeschooled, are now organizing the next Lancaster Snow Ball, planned for Feb. 18 at the Stone Gables Estate in Elizabethtown. Reese, a high school junior, is leading the Lancaster Snow Ball committee, while Maggie, a freshman, is helping out.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that the Snow Ball is continuing,” says Isabelle, who is now studying social work at Grove City College in Western Pennsylvania. “My goal in starting it last year was to create a long-lasting opportunity for homeschooled students, while raising money for local charities. It’s especially sweet that my younger siblings are the ones keeping it alive.”
The inaugural Lancaster Snow Ball also succeeded in its mission of connecting homeschoolers to one another.
“One of the kids I actually met last year reached out to me over the summer about helping out with this year’s Snow Ball,” Reese says. “Now, he’s actually one of my right-hand men that helps run the event this year.”
Reese says the event is being run by a committee including his younger sister Maggie, who is managing the catering.
“The Snow Ball is important to me because my older sister started it last year, and it is a fun way to continue the tradition of planning it,” Maggie says. “For me, it is all about giving back to the community, but it also gives homeschool high schoolers a fun night to spend with friends and dance the night away.”
This year’s Lancaster Snow Ball, open to homeschooled high school students in grades nine to 12, takes place at the Star Barn at the Stone Gables Estate in Elizabethtown from 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 18. Tickets to the semiformal dance are $65 and include admission, dining, dancing, entertainment and one raffle ticket. Tickets can be bought at thelancastersnowball.org.
The organizers are hoping to bring in 150 homeschool students for this year’s event. A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit the Milagro House — a Lancaster-based nonprofit that provides education, housing and support services for women and their children who would otherwise be experiencing homelessness.
“We ended up calling Milagro House to see how they were doing and if they needed help and they told us that they have a bunch of families staying with them right now,” Reese says. “They’re fully donor-funded, so everything helps. We told them our idea and they were very very appreciative and we’d love to help them.”
“We are so grateful to be the beneficiary of the 2023 Snow Ball,” Kristy Gismot, director of funding and sustainability at Milagro House wrote in a text. “Support from our donors and the larger community is how we are able to serve women with children facing homelessness. The support from the Snow Ball will help us provide housing and education to those we serve so they have the tools needed to build a brighter future for themselves and their children.”
Reese says he encourages other high-schoolers to get involved with the community, whether it’s something like organizing a dance like the Lancaster Snow Ball or getting friends together to pick up trash at a local park.
“If you see something that you want to change, go for it,” Reese says. “It gives you a really great leadership opportunity. You get to get involved in the community. You get to give back. That’s really important to me.”
What: The Lancaster Snow Ball.
Where: The Star Barn at Stone Gables. Estate, 1 Hollinger Lane, Elizabethtown.
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 18.
Cost: Tickets are $65. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Milagro House.
Who is invited: Homeschooled high school students in grades nine to 12.
More info: Visit thelancastersnowball.org for more information. Learn more about the Milagro House at milagrohouse.org.
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