Dozens dance the night away

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Jill Mayes and David Cross never got to attend their high school proms.

&uot;I would have enjoyed it,&uot; said Mayes, who graduated from Nansemond River High in 1998. &uot;But my stepmom made a big to-do about it, and I didn’t get to go. I was devastated.&uot;

While a student at John K. Kennedy High, &uot;I don’t think (Cross) really knew about the prom,&uot; said his mother, Jackie Nickelson. &uot;He just said he wished he could have gone.&uot;

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Sometimes, those with special needs, like Mayes and Cross, don’t get the same opportunities as everyone else. That’s what made Saturday night all the more special for them.

&uot;Everybody has a prom,&uot; said Lynn Robinson. &uot;All the high schools have proms. This was something that we wanted to do.&uot;

Robinson, whose Hope and Happiness program holds socials every month at the Tidewater House on Godwin Boulevard for local special needs residents, teamed with the Western Tidewater Community Services Board to hold a prom for those that might not have gotten to go in school. The Eastover Ruritan Club donated its building behind the Wilroy Baptist Church, and the gospel group, Four Give, provided the food and music.

&uot;We wanted to do it all,&uot; said FG member Ray Bennett, the night’s disc jockey. &uot;They’re special, special people. I think people have a tendency to sit (special needs) people on the sidelines, but they’re just as special as we are.&uot;

With streamers decorated with lights hanging across the building, people started to pour in. As the evening continued, more and more filed in, forcing the chaperones to pull out more chairs and tables for them to sit at.

&uot;This is more than we could have hoped for,&uot; said Joy Johnson. &uot;It’s wonderful.&uot;

A former special education instructor in England, Johnson and her husband recently adopted a child with Down’s Syndrome.

&uot;We’re very blessed,&uot; she said. &uot;We fell in love with him. We wanted to (use the prom) to reconnect with children.&uot;

Robinson’s son Kerry, whose heart and lung ailments force him to use an artificial breathing machine, took it off for a few minutes to do the Electric Slide.

&uot;I’m feeling great,&uot; he said. &uot;I can dance a little, but not too much. I have a bad heart, but I don’t think about it, not now. I can talk to people.&uot;

Taking a break from the festivities to grab a drink, Robinson watched her friends dance the evening away.

&uot;This is the epitome of good,&uot; she said. &uot;This whole night was perfect. I had fun, the kids had fun, the adults had fun.&uot;

Nickelson watched her son hokey-pokey and Macarena across the floor.

&uot;I think he wanted to come because he really doesn’t get a chance to really get out and socialize with people,&uot; she said. &uot;I’m enjoying that he’s getting a chance to have fun.&uot;

As the evening wound down, Cross and Mayes stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air.

&uot;It was pretty good,&uot; Cross said. &uot;I liked it, the dance, the music, the fun, the food, everything.&uot;

&uot;I’m glad I waited,&uot; Mayes said. &uot;It was wonderful, just seeing my friends and making new friends. I enjoyed it, and I’m still enjoying it.&uot;

For more information about Hope and Happiness and its socials, call 986-3353.