First formal dance for locals occasion to remember

SHERIDAN — Three local agencies serving adults with disabilities teamed up to host a dance on Friday for the agencies’ clients at Sunrise Assembly of God. Outside, Marion Street was lined bumper-to-bumper with cars. Inside, it was just as packed.

Clients from Easter Seals, Eagle Ridge Rehabilitative Services and Rehabilitation Enterprises of North Eastern Wyoming were dressed in sparkling prom dresses, suits and ties. The women had gotten their hair and makeup done earlier by volunteers and they had corsages on their wrists. Some of the men wore fedoras.

It was Amir Schiffer’s first dance, and he was impressed.

“I get to hang out with all my friends from Eagle Ridge. And,” he said, “I know the deejay.”

Schiffer, 35, said the dance was bigger and better than the agency’s typical holiday gift exchange, and he’d been looking forward to it for a while.

“All November,” he said. “I think we should do this more often.”

Mabel Steinfeld was there for her daughter, Samantha, an Easter Seals client who works two days a week in the laundry room at Best Western.

“I like to see her all dressed up,” she said. Samantha chose a hot pink dress for the occasion. “It’s so nice, because these guys have never really been to prom.”

Event organizers estimated there were 75-80 participants — many more than expected. Before the dance kicked off, the party-goers paraded in pairs past cheering family and friends in a “grand march,” getting their photos taken.

“K, Showboat, you gotta keep driving,” the deejay said when one man slowed his wheelchair to a crawl to bask in the applause.

Charles Parker watches the action from his seat during the annual Unity Ball Friday at the Sunrise Assembly of God Church.
Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press: Joanne

Staff members from the agencies dressed up, too, and someone in a giant snowman costume hammed it up, shaking his butt and giving high fives. Family members pointed out their sons, daughters and grandchildren to the people sitting next to them in the audience.

 When the king and queen from each of the three participating agencies were announced, the applause reached top decibel. One woman wiped away tears beneath her glasses as event organizers draped a royalty sash over her shoulders and set a rhinestone tiara on her head.

Stephanie Vela helped organize the event. Vela, who works at Rocky Mountain Ambulance and coaches the cheer team at Sheridan High School, is not affiliated with any of the participating agencies, but a part-time co-worker of hers at Rocky Mountain Ambulance attends one of their day programs.

Vela said she got the idea from her sister-in-law, who helped organize a similar event in Gillette this spring. With cash, food and clothing donations from her employer, Valley Motor Honda, Wal-Mart, Qdoba Mexican Grill and others, the event had all the trappings of a full-blown party: snacks, balloons, streamers and no shortage of oldies music.

Vela said she wanted something special for the group that they could remember. While most of the participants from older generations hadn’t been to a formal dance, Vela is happy to see that trend fading.

“Now, working at the high school, I see, you know, starting varsity football players taking special-needs girls to the prom, and asking them in the middle of the pep assembly.”

Vela plans to help organize another dance next year, expanding the invite list and charging for tickets as a way to raise funds for the agencies.