Gregory Hannah, Assistant Director of Disability Services welcoming students.

On the evening of Friday Feb. 7, around 300 students crowded into the Jake Nevin Field House for the University’s first ever Villanova Inclusion Party. The Villanova Inclusion Party, dubbed “VIP” for short, was a night of games, food and live music.

The field house, lit up by glow-in-the-dark wristbands and lights strung across the bleachers, was filled with energy. Grace Pawelczyk, a chair on the VIP committee, was excited for a great night.

“I’m excited to see so many people celebrate inclusion and raise money for a great cause,” Pawelczyk said.

With a $12 ticket purchase, students received a VIP t-shirt, entry into two raffles and admission into Jake Nevin Field House. Katie DeNicola won the raffle for courtside seats to the men’s basketball game at the Wells Fargo Center the next day and Connor Hayes won the raffle for a free night in Atlantic City, NJ. Inside the gym, students took advantage of the fun games available, such as cornhole, giant Jenga and inflatable velcro axe throwing. Students were also able to grab insomnia cookies and take fun pictures in the photo booth.

At around 8:00 p.m., Steve Koch, Assistant Director for Leadership Programs, and Gregory Hannah, Assistant Director of Disability Services, took the stage to welcome everyone and thank them for coming. 

“Tonight shows that when we truly understand what inclusion is, we can work together and make great things happen,” Koch said. 

After Koch’s and Hannah’s welcome, Garden State Radio, a cover band performing top throwback and modern hits with a huge light show, took the stage. Garden State Radio then kicked the performance off with a cover of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and continued performing until the end of the night.

The event was a success, as the proceeds from ticket sales raised a few thousand dollars, which will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. According to their website, the National MS Society is a nonprofit organization that helps those with Multiple Sclerosis, “an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body,” and works towards curing the disease.

The idea for the event started when Hannah watched Garden State Radio last year. He was impressed by their high energy and interactive performance. After receiving word of a student recently diagnosed with MS, Hannah knew he wanted to do something about this. 

“I wanted to do something that could honor that student, raise money for the National MS Society, and build a new tradition to provide an opportunity for students to have a fun, safe and easy night on campus by showing up and listening to a great band,” Hannah said.

The idea of an on-campus concert, a celebration of inclusion and a fundraiser, was brought to life through the work of many, especially Koch, Hannah and members of the VIP Committee: Grace Wittenberg, Grace Pawelczyk and Connor Hayes. The event was a blast for all. 

“For me, the best part of the Villanova Inclusion Party was seeing the social media posts after the event and students sharing how much fun they had and how they cannot wait for next year,” Hannah said. “People were impacted by having fun in the name of inclusion and that’s something we want to build a foundation for.” 

They hope to make the VIP event a tradition and plan on making next year even bigger and better.