By Evelyn Banks
EDITOR’S NOTE: Evelyn “Vonn” Banks is a Millington resident who retired from the Navy after 30 years. She is heavily involved with the Down Syndrome Association via her cousin, Breanna Allen who has Down Syndrome.
For the past two years, Bree’s Busy Bees Annual Sweetheart Ball has been held at the Millington Community Center with 19 participants – Very, Very Important Persons (VVIPs).
VVIPs have been engaged in a program which featured a full- course catered dinner, talent presentations, entertainment, fashion extravaganza, VVIP arch stroll, door prizes, gifts, dancing, and fellowship. There has been overwhelming love and support as guests have included family, friends, clergy, elected county/city officials, and school leaders.
This remarkable event was established following Retired Command Master Chief Evelyn “Vonn” Banks’ challenge by her cousin, Breeona “Bree” Andreyle Allen, to support her favorite charity, Down Syndrome Association of Memphis, as she was determined to reach and exceed her goal in fundraising for their annual walk through her charity, Bree’s Busy Bees Annual Walk.
Cousin Vonn readily accepted the challenge which included Bree’s request to make her and some Down Syndrome and special-needs friends feel important—very, very important—for just one night.
Understanding a sense of urgency, Cousin Vonn asked Bree to identify the VVIPs that would enjoy sharing the stage with her in fulfillment of this dream. While the focus of the annual event has been squarely on the VVIPs, many local supporters have contributed and attended the event lending to its success, momentum, and recognition in the community.
Though the global COVID pandemic prevents this annual event from being experienced in its traditional manner, Vonn has readily complied with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) imposed restrictions to daily life and has adopted a different and innovative approach for 2021 Bree’s Busy Bees Annual Sweetheart Ball. Vonn stated “Innovation is more important now than ever before. The continuous acts of kindness and generous contributions of supporters over the past weeks have shone a light on the power of human creativity and collaboration to help Bree meet goals for her charity while at the same time engage and encourage her dearest friends. Resiliency is one skill that Bree and VVIPs are developing during this COVID experience, discovering new ways to learn, communicate, live, and raise funds.”
This year’s event has a delightful twist as all VVIPs will receive an up-close and personal delivery that will include Valentine’s baskets, gifts, flowers, dinner certificate from their restaurant of choice, special love notes from family, friends and supporters, and photos.
Much love and appreciation goes out to the supporters and businesses for their individual commitment to inspire Bree and her friends during these unprecedented and challenging times. No doubt, this crisis will somehow and very soon be resolved, and the annual event will return to the stage in Millington.
A salute to this year’s leading business partners: ETC Awards and Trophies, Dagen Living Water Christian Bookstore, and Big Lots.