Starry Night Prom

Dancing the night away at the popular DeLaSalle spring event

Do you remember the excitement of attending your high school prom? Did you skip the experience due to disability concerns? Or did you feel uncomfortable attending because of the lack of inclusion and accessibility. Never again! On May 3rd, DeLaSalle High School hosted the memorable Starry Night Prom for persons living with disabilities.

DeLaSalle Vice-President Peg Hodapp chairs the complimentary Starry Night Prom. She fondly recalls the first Starry Night Prom back in 2001 which hosted 70 party revelers. Starry Night Prom enthusiasm has spread throughout the disability community, mostly by word of mouth. This year 1015 people attended, which included family and helpers for the guests. Ms. Hodapp estimates about 750 party attendees were guests with disabilities. Guests of all ages came with a date, in a group, or stag and reveled in the festivities, refreshments, and dancing.

One hundred seventy-five DeLaSalle students volunteered their time and enthusiasm to Starry Night Prom this year. The 9th – 12th graders from the DeLaSalle Diversity Committee spent months planning the event, including attendance at sensitivity training. A training highlight involved someone with a disability talking about life’s ups and downs. On May 3rd the kids put up decorations, directed parking, manned registration tables, served treats, and danced with the guests.

The Grand March, held in the dance hall, opened the evening with much zest. As each couple or group came under the sparkling Grand March Arch, the crowd cheered. Some guests loved the march so much, they went through twice.

The dancing broke out after the Grand March. Groups, individuals, couples, and line dancers grooved to the resounding music. In an adjoining room, some guests sampled snacks and drinks in café atmosphere. Another large room held the photography studio, where guests could have pictures taken. Other folks relaxed in the quieter hallways.

Many areas bustled with activity. Due to the amazing growth of the prom, the Diversity Committee will continue discussing ideas to maneuver the crowds for more fabulous fun in years to come.

Ever After Gowns, a local non-profit company, provided beautiful formal gowns for those in need. Ladies were invited to a complimentary Boutique to pick out their dress and accessories. “It’s not just about the dress,” said Maggie Harris, president and co-founder of Ever After Gowns. “It’s about the experience we feel every girl deserves to have.

Monika Dizer, a prom attendee, enjoyed her special day of pampering at the Ever After Gowns Boutique in April. When Monika arrived, she felt flattered when they presented her a special flower with her name. Soon a personal shopper brought Monika back to the boutique. Held in a school cafeteria, the room looked like a beautiful upscale shop with racks and racks of dresses. Assisted by the staff, Monika chose a stunning black gown. Next her shopper guided Monika around the room to find accessories: shoes, shawls, jewelry, nail polish, make-up, and a black silk purse. The staff even photographed Monika in her finery.

Monika attended Starry Night Prom with her fiance Angelo Garcia, as they have for several years. They both appreciated the classy evening. Angelo enjoyed his ice cream treat and the fun crowd. Monika loved dancing and having pictures taken.

The students seemed to have as much fun as the guests. “By the end of the night, it’s like we are best friends. I like being a part of that,” a student said. As each guest departed, a committee member gave them a “Starry Night 2008” ceramic star as a memento of the evening.

If you are interested in attending Starry Night Prom next year, visit: www.delasalle.com. For more information about Ever After Gowns, look up: www.everaftergowns.org