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  • Writer's pictureJulia Fieldhammer

The Medallion

In November I was in the St. Joan of Arc Medallion for Volunteer Services Ball. The Medallion Ball is a tradition that all the women in my Mom's family do. My Mom and her sisters all did it, as well as my two older sisters before me. In order to participate in the ball you have to have completed 150 volunteer hours. I mainly volunteered at Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), where my service dog is from.

The Medallion participants are always female, and everyone needs a male to escort her to the ball and dance with her. At the beginning of the Ball, all the women line up and receive their medallion from the Bishop of Pittsburgh (Bishop Zubik, in this case). After the Bishop gives them the medallion, their escort walks with them down the main aisle of the event ballroom, where they are presented and curtsey to the audience. After all the women get their medallions there is a big fancy waltz. Dinner is served after the waltz, and then there is some regular music to dance to. Family members attend the Ball, but you have to buy tickets so only my parents attended. However, at the night of the event, they had an extra seat, so my older sister Sarah joined (free of charge, yay!).

The dress code was black tie. The women getting their medallions have to wear white dresses, white shoes, and white gloves that go up past the elbow. The men escorting them have to wear a tux with coattails and their own pair of white gloves.

To prepare for the event, there are two full days of practice with you and your escort. During these days we learn our position in line to get our medallions, the escorts learn the right way to present us, and we learn the big, complicated waltz. The waltz consists of everyone waltzing around in a big circle in the middle of the ballroom. Since I am in a wheelchair, my escort and I had to waltz by ourselves in the middle of the circle.

I asked my friend, Reese, to escort me to the ball. Despite the grueling commitment and practicing, we had a lot of fun!

It was downtown at one of the hotels, and all the guests had to be dressed up as well. My family rented a hotel room so we could get ready. My mom did my makeup, but a hair stylist came to the hotel room to do my hair (very fancy!).

It was a really fun night and I’m glad I did!

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