Monday, October 18, 2010

California program for disabled students holds its first prom

From News 10 in Calif.:

SACRAMENTO - Students from the Jessie Baker School in Elk Grove gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento Oct. 17 to dance in the school's first-ever prom.
It was an especially moving evening for parents and teachers whose kids had never before danced in such an event. They all have a severe mental disability of some kind.

"Autism, down syndrome, mental retardation," said teacher Dawn Phillips, talking about the conditions with which her students live.

"They're just people who want to have a good time," she said. Phillips was part of a team that started planning the school's inaugural prom in April.

Thanks to thousands of dollars in donations from people and businesses, and free usage of the Hyatt Regency's 15th floor ballroom, the moment finally arrived Sunday afternoon for 75 excited students and their families.

"He woke up this morning excited," said parent Inga Randle, talking about her 15-year-old son Brian. "He wanted to get dressed at nine in the morning."

"It's just the most wonderful thing," added parent Tina Carling, holding back tears as her 21-year-old daughter Michelle entered the hotel lobby in her blue prom dress. "I've always wanted that for her, to be able to go to the prom, have a special moment, dress up like a princess."

As Phillips watched the party unfold on the dance floor, she could not hold back her tears.

"This is why we're here, why we work with them," she said, wiping her eyes. "To see them dancing and having fun, it makes it all worth it."

The school said they will likely not have a prom next year, but hope to plan for one the following year, depending on their fundraising efforts.