Tolani’s 50th Birthday Celebration

“Distance means so little when someone means so much.”

Tom McNeal

Tolani, Steve and their two children have lived on three different continents and made deep and meaningful relationships with people from all over the world.

I got to be a part of Tolani’s 50th birthday celebrations this April in the Netherlands and witnessed firsthand the beauty of her little family, a family which is lifted up by the love of a global community.

Day 1: When you share a birthday with the Dutch king, orange is the obvious choice!

The first day of Tolani’s birthday celebrations were marked by the distinct honor of falling on a national holiday in the Netherlands: King’s Day. This King’s Day, the Dutch celebrated the 50th birthday of King Willem-Alexander and, tradition dictates, the whole country morphed into a sea of orange. It’s no surprise then that for Tolani’s 50th birthday, the guests were asked to also dress in orange.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, guests arrived from cities around the world– Chicago, Nairobi and Lagos, just to name a few. Each ring of the doorbell led to more hugs and tears of happiness as friends and family members arrived to join in on the celebrations.

Day 2: Birthday dinners can also be about honoring beloved family members.

On day two of the celebrations, guests were welcomed to a three course dinner at Bistro George L.A. in Laren. This lovely bistro has been a home away from home for Tolani, Steve and their children since their move to the Netherlands. As such, it was the natural choice for welcoming all of their friends and family as a part of Tolani’s birthday celebrations.

After dinner, a gorgeous chocolate cake was brought out for Tolani’s father who was celebrating his own birthday on this day.

Day 3: Boat rides, dinner, speeches and dancing

On the final day of celebrations, guests were whisked to Amsterdam for a canal boat ride which brought them from the heart of the city to restaraunt The Harbour Club.

Here, everyone enjoyed cocktail hour followed by a delicious meal. Tolani and Steve even surprised their guests with an impromptu dance during dinner.

When dinner was finished, a DJ welcomed everyone to the party. After a few songs, the music was turned off and a number of guests shared their beautiful memories of Tolani and her family. They spoke of Tolani’s kindness, her resolve, her strength of character. They shared stories of sometimes tender and sometimes hilarious moments. Most of all, they spoke of how knowing her had changed their lives for the better.

As the music was turned back up and the dancing continued, the joy of this special moment radiated throughout the room. So many people from so many different countries and walks of life, in this one place at this particular time, because of one extraordinary woman.

Happy 50th birthday Tolani! And thank you to you and Steve for letting me capture this special day.

“Love will travel as far as you let it. It has no limits.”Dee King

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