A special day to dress up and dance

Photos by Carl Peters
The Catholic Daughters of the Americas held their annual special needs prom at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown on April 22. Above, guests, caregivers and Catholic Daughters share a table and pose for a photo. Photo below, 7-year-old Cali Iacovelli pushes the wheelchair of one of the guests.

WILLIAMSTOWN — It was a typical dance scene, with dim lights and the usual music, mostly Motown and disco. The men were dressed up, and the women were more dressed up; some wore sequined dresses and one had a tiara. Those on the shy side sat at the tables nursing their drinks and joking, while others took to the dance floor right away and never left.

The marathon dancers included some in wheelchairs and a slender woman with a walker.

This was the special needs prom hosted by the Catholic Daughters of the Americas court at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown on April 22. The prom has become an annual event in recent years, with invitations being sent out to group homes and residential facilities throughout the area, as well as to individuals who live at home with family.

In all, nearly 100 people came to dance, pose for photos, enjoy refreshments and compete in hula hoop and limbo contests.

“The guys I came in with are having a ball,” said Robin Alessandrini, a caregiver at ARC who was cheering on one of her charges in the limbo.

No one, though, was having a better time than Cali Iacovelli, who had come to the hall with her mother to see a relative after spending the morning playing flag football and attending religious education at the parish. The quick hello turned into an afternoon affair as Cali befriended Charlie, a balding senior who uses a wheelchair. As long as the music played, she pushed him on the dance floor as he moved his shoulders to the music.

Also helping out were members of the youth group from Saint Mary of Mount Carmel Parish in Hammonton. They welcomed the attendees and served refreshments, and some took on the role of dance instructor. At one point, Kortnie Cinhowski had three individuals following her steps, even teaching one to twirl, as she danced and sang along with Mary Wells’ “My Guy.” She signed up as a volunteer right away, she said, because of her previous rewarding experiences working with individuals with special needs through the youth group.

Toward the end of the event, as at every prom, a king and queen were named and honored.