MIDDLETOWN — As the time for the dance neared, Jennifer Atkinson could see a difference in her son, Luke, 18, a junior at Middletown High School.
He attended “One Special Night,” a formal dance hosted by Berachah Church for students with special needs last year, and he was excited to return.
The night didn’t disappoint, his mother said.
“He was paired with a buddy who took him under his wings,” she said. “That’s when my husband Mark and I knew he was safe and was going to have fun.”
Luke has Down syndrome, and while he’s not a “big dancer,” he was on the dance floor by the end of Friday evening.
When the night ended, and Luke was picked up by his parents, he told them: “I had fun.”
Atkinson certainly appreciated the effort of the church, its team of volunteers and local restaurants, Chick-fil-A and Brent’s Smokin’ Butts.
She said there were nearly 100 students and everyone was paired with a buddy. The girls were offered free manicures, make-up and hairstyles, while the boys could get their hair cut.
The church’s sanctuary was converted into a Hawaiian-theme for the “Ohana! A Party Paradise” dance.
“It’s truly overwhelming, humbling,” Atkinson said when asked her response to all the preparations. “So many people gave their time, talent. It’s absolutely amazing the undertaking it is.”
These type of events — she also mentioned Special Olympics — are important because they offer an opportunity for children with special needs to interact with other students and “have such a good time and to be themselves.”
Berachah Pastor Lamar Ferrell said the dance provides “truly a canopy of celebration.” He said the dance is so successful because it’s “crafted” for students with disabilities. No one is a wallflower and everyone is out dancing, he said.
Besides the 100 students in attendance, Ferrell said there were about 300 volunteers. The event was so successful that next year’s will be a 2-night affair with dances on a Friday and a Saturday night, he said.
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