LEBANON — A single mother who brought her developmentally disabled son to a community daddy-daughter dance does not understand why she and her child were asked to leave.
“We were just trying to have fun,” said Jennifer Meade. “I just didn’t think it would be a problem with me being there.”
Leaders of the century-old community group that hosted the event deny Meade was ever told to leave.
Meade, 33, a pharmacy technician who lives in Hanover, brought her son, Brody, 7, to the dance while her daughter, Addison Henderson, 5, went to the dance with Meade’s boyfriend.
Brody Meade was born with Joubert Syndrome, a genetic brain disorder that leaves him dealing with epileptic seizures and difficulty communicating.
“He’s a very happy kid,” Meade said.
Meade has brought her entire family to other community dances in the Upper Valley and thought it would be fun to go to the Lebanon dance held last weekend at the Carter Community Building Association Witherell Recreation Center.
She paid $30 for the tickets and they went inside to see other families and other moms enjoying the evening.
“It was a bunch of people having a good time,” she said.
Soon after they got there, however, Meade said she was approached by a female CCBA staffer and told to leave.
“She said, ‘I’m giving you five more minutes,’” Meade said. “No one was uncomfortable with me being there.”
Meade can’t say if anyone was reacting negatively to her son, but said that by asking her to leave they were in effect asking Brody to leave as well.
Meade also isn’t sure if her appearance, with a sleeve of tattoos on one arm and blue hair, played a role in her being singled out among other mothers attending the dance.
Meade said the woman initially suggested she go to the Salt Hill Pub to wait out the dance, and soon told her again she could not stay.
Peter Land, chairman of the CCBA board, disputes this version of events.
“This has been seriously misrepresented and I’m pretty angry about it,” Land said.
Land said staff at the CCBA did an incident report after Meade complained and took her issues public. He said that all of the mothers who showed up for the daddy-daughter dance were asked to wait in the recreation center, Meade included.
“She wasn’t thrown out,” Land said. “We have multiple witnesses to this.”
Meade maintains she was never asked to go to the recreation center by anyone on staff, but rather was forced to leave the dance.
The daddy-daughter dance is a popular community event, Land said, as are the mother-son dances and other family dances the CCBA hosts.
“It’s a wonderful community event being tarnished by one individual making outrageous accusations,” Land said.
Shelby Day, executive director for the CCBA, said the event is a special event that gives fathers, grandfathers, uncles and even older brothers the opportunity to be a positive male role model for a young girl.
“We had 200 participants in the room who expected this was what it was for,” Day said.
The daddy-daughter dance traditionally allows the whole family to show up at the start for pictures and a quick get together. Staff then encourages moms, grandmothers and other women to head over to the recreation room, Day said. That was the case this year as well, she said.
“In no way do we feel we did anything differently,” Day said.
Day said Meade and her family were treated the same as all families are treated and were not thrown out of the building. She also was refunded her money.
“She was not kicked out,” Day said.
The CCBA has been part of building community in the Upper Valley for 100 years, Day said. The organization is inclusive of all family types, events like the daddy-daughter and mother-son dances in no way make the CCBA less inclusive, she said.
For Matt Raymond, the dance means a special night for his 9-year-old daughter, Alayna, where she gets to feel like the center of her father’s attention.
“Her eyes light up like you wouldn’t believe,” Raymond said.
Raymond has been bringing his daughter to the event for the past three years and enjoys the time with his child.
“It’s nice to let her have a special day,” Raymond said.