During the height of prom season, and with no shortage of formal gowns, tuxedos and boutineers, a special group of teens from across the greater Kansas City area danced the night away at Raymore-Peculiar High School on April 20.
For the past three years, Alex Scavuzzo, 17, has organized a prom for special needs students in her community in partnership with Special Olympics Missouri.
Held each year after the organization’s annual spring track meet at Lee’s Summit North High School, some students dress up in formals while others stay in their tracksuits as they make their way to the school’s gymnasium for an evening of dancing, photos and DJ entertainment.
On Saturday, students were decorated with leis as they entered the luau-themed celebration, and prom attendees also signed a large banner upon entry to the dance, as part of the camaraderie and festivities.
Outside the gym, in the commons area, students and their dates, as well as parents, were served hors d'oeuvres, donated by area businesses.
A local photographer also had a photo booth set up to help the prom-goers capture the memories being made.
Apple Bus Company also donated a bus and driver to shuttle students from the Raytown area, and special needs dancers from The B.E.S.T. Network in Overland Park, Kan. provided dance-troupe style entertainment.
The event is designed to give special needs students an opportunity to enjoy a traditional high school rite-of-passage in a comfortable environment of their own.
“It’s really awesome to have a parent come up to me to tell me that I have no idea of how much this means to them,” said Scavuzzo, a junior at Ray-Pec.
Scavuzzo, who started organizing the evening event during her freshman year as part of a student council service project, opens the invitation to any Special Olympics athletes in the area.
There is also no age limit. Students as young as 12 and adults in their 40s have participated.
Scavuzzo plans several service projects each year, but said putting on the prom is her favorite.
“It’s the most rewarding one for me,” Scavuzzo said.
She wishes for the event to keep going on after graduation next year, and is training an underclassman in hopes it will continue.
“Special Olympics Missouri has few areas they try to target - confidence, trust, communication, building relationships and being social. I feel like our project does a little bit of all that,” Scavuzzo said.