WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A DJ and a mom have spent the last 10 years bringing joy to hundreds of adults with special needs across southeastern North Carolina. .
This dynamic duo met when Fran Griner hired John Russ to DJ her daughter’s 21st birthday party. Griner is involved with High Hopes, a non-profit group of parents who have high hopes for their children with disabilities.
“I have a child with special needs, John Russ is our DJ, I found him and invited him to do her 21st birthday party at the Elks Lodge. And when it was done he called me back and said Ms. Fran, I’ve met people in the community that I’ve never known before and I serve on boards all over town. And he said I really want to do something for this group of individuals,” Griner said.
Russ, aka ‘DJ Smooth’ aka 'the baddest DJ on wheels’, has cerebral palsy. He said their dream began after that phone call.
“This was his idea," Griner recalled. "I found the place and I just cook every month, that’s all I do.”
For the past 10 years, the group has met on the third Tuesday of each month. It started as a group of around 30 people, who decided to name their club the UFO Club.
“They wanted to be a club. They really wanted FBI or CIA but they couldn’t think of anything to go with it. So they said ‘oh let’s be the ABC Club.’ They’re like ‘that’s Sesame Street,’ and I’m like ‘no honey, it’s a liquor store.’ So they came up with UFO because yes, they are a little bit out there. And they came up with the words ‘unique fun ones.' They are unique and they are fun,” Griner said.
The events attract hundreds, as many as 550 people during the holiday months. Tuesday’s event had about 220 people in attendance.
Attendees and their caregivers enjoy music by DJ Smooth, dancing, crafts, and lunch. Some groups come from as far away as Fayetteville.
For the past nine years, the event has been free, but organizers have started to ask for dollar donations to offset costs. If you would like to support the UFO club, you can call Fran Griner at (910) 274-6411.