Starry Night Prom

Over a decade ago, the Lasallian Ministry at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis had a wonderful idea. The students and staff would come together and “host” a gala evening of music, dancing, food, and fun for people living with disabilities.

The event is modeled after a high school “prom” but unlike the traditional formal dance where people with special needs often feel uncomfortable and out-of-place … this prom has been created just for them! And for the guests, it’s free!

To say that the Starry Night Prom has become popular is an understatement. In 2010, the school hosted over 600 guests. Rumor has it that the event, held last weekend, pushed attendance to nearly 1,000. Let me tell you a little more about the event.

The Hosts. Half of the DeLaSalle student body (about 200 students) work for months planning and preparing for this special evening. They raise money, make decorations and plan the refreshments. Most importantly, they attend seminars and sensitivity training so they are comfortable and able to appropriately interact with their guests. When the day arrives, their hard work transforms the school gymnasium into a fantasy land. In the early years, music was provided by a D.J. but now they have a live band.

The Guests. The event is open to people of all ages living with a disability. And while there are a few teens and young adults, the event brings out the older community as well. Some live with their parents and others in group homes. They arrive by car, bus, and even in limos! Some dress to the nines; others a little more casual. But one thing they all have in common is that they are there to have fun!

This year marks the ninth time Melissa has attended the event. She marks the date on her calendar and she and Kathy make “mom and daughter” plans. It starts with the “dress hunt” and ends with a day of beauty … hairs, nails, general pampering. Then the time arrives.

The Evening. I’m not sure how other families do it, but for the past few years our family and some of Melissa’s friends have a pre-event party and a limo ride to the event. One family hosts the get-together where they snack and chat. Then the limo arrives. The party goers head to the curb and toast with their sparkling (non-alcoholic) beverages. Did I mention the pictures? Every family is snapping their camera to capture the moment. Ever anxious to escape (from their picture-crazy parents) they pile into the limo, crank up the music, and their long, sleek chariot that whisks them away for their evening of fun.

After a short cruise around the city, they arrive at the school. They pour out of the limo and enter the school where they are warmly greeted by their host students. More pictures and then its off to join the Grand March. No date? No problem. Guests who come alone “march” with a host high school student (host girls will escort guest boys, and vice-versa). Should I mention how excited the guests are to be escorted?

Once in the gym the party starts. Friends gather at tables (that their parents have ‘reserved’ for them as much as an hour before their arrival. The music starts. Food and drink are consumed. And everyone has a wonderful time.

Our group of friends then head over to have a late dinner–the parents in one area and the young adults in the other. The laughing and joking continues. Exhausted, our family heads home … where Melissa marks the calendar for next year’s event.



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