Making Life Sweeter, One Event at a Time
Life at The Hill revolves around food, friendship, and fun–all of which are in high demand during the events they plan for residents throughout the year. Thanks to the creativity of the staff who plan the events, residents have had the opportunity to “visit” Morocco, Paris, Mexico, and even the lost city of Atlantis.
“We want every event to be a surprise for the residents,” said Nicole Bennett, Director of Resident Services and Development for The Hill at Whitemarsh. “When we plan a themed event, we go all out. Everything from the decorations to the music to the food choices– we really want the residents to feel fully immersed in each experience.”
Nicole and three members of her team–BJ DeMelo, Life Enrichment Manager, Dorothy Raimondo, Trips and Events Coordinator, and Becca Scheetz, Digital Communications and Volunteer Supervisor– are responsible for brainstorming and planning all resident events throughout the year. Once they come up with a concept, they partner with Henry Bromley, Director of Dining, and Adam Ochs, Executive Chef, to ensure that it’s not just the look and feel of the event that is seamless, but also the taste.
“It’s always a group effort to bring a new event to life,” said Nicole. “We come up with the theme, and the Dining team puts together a menu to complement that theme. We really just start with a big idea and work backwards from there.”
“Sometimes it just starts with a word,” added BJ. “We have the ability to make some of our biggest dreams come true for the residents. Once we figure out how to make it happen, we totally transform the spaces we take over.”
Over the years, Nicole and her team have planned a variety of events, including: a Parisian Night that featured a giant Eiffel Tower displayed in the main lobby, along with wine and cheese pairings; a circus event complete with stilt walkers, jugglers, and cotton candy; a Casablanca Night with two large camels in the hallway (note: the camels were not real); a Western-themed country hoedown; and a Cruise Ship Bingo Night where residents felt like they walked onto the set of “The Love Boat.”
“We typically don’t like to repeat themes,” said BJ. “We always try to do something different, something exotic and bold.”
It’s not just the themes that are exotic and bold; the suggested attire often calls for the residents to get creative and sometimes come dressed to the nines for the occasion.
“Our residents always come dressed for the theme,” Nicole said. “We once did a ‘Sound of Music’ Sing-a-long, and some of the residents came in costumes from the movie. It was amazing.”
One of the most memorable events for Nicole was the 10-year anniversary party for The Hill, which adopted the theme of “An Affair to Remember” and had called for optional black tie attire for all those in attendance.
“We brought in a dance floor, and everyone danced that night. It was a lot of fun!” said BJ.
“We also had this incredible fireworks display several months later, to mark the end of a 10-month-long celebration of 10 years at The Hill. It was a challenge to pull off, but it was one of the more memorable things that we’ve done,” added Nicole. “Everyone came outside after dinner and gathered around for the fireworks display at sunset over the hill where Hawk Ridge was built.”
Nicole and her team have also been able to plan a slew of fun and creative outdoor events for the residents.
“We have planned mini-concerts outdoors around the property, just 15 minutes in each location,” said Nicole.
“We also hosted Golf Cart Happy Hours so the happy hour could come to each resident where they were, and we planned Muffins and Mimosas on the golf cart too. We held a Fiesta Night with a mariachi band, which included a special menu from Dining.”
They also planned An Evening Under The Stars, the grand finale for The Hill’s summer event series, which featured live music from The John Hoey Orchestra, a professional 12-piece band. In addition to the entertainment, the Dining team set up a seafood display around a large ice sculpture in the main lobby. It was, according to Nicole, BJ, and Dorothy, a wonderful way to end the summer and a great opportunity to bring the entire community together.
“We are very detail oriented and make sure that every aspect of our events is executed well,” says BJ. “Our residents are very sophisticated and very well traveled, so we set high standards for everything we do; it has to be a high-quality experience every time.”