STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Brianna Roberts stunned in a sea foam green gown. Andrew Bianci proudly wore two neck pieces — one was conservative blue-on-black check tie and the other a rainbow jigsaw piece bowtie.
This was the fifth annual of such a prom, a merge of three special needs groups On Your Mark, Eden II and G.R.A.C.E. Foundation into one celebration dubbed as the 2017 “Masquerade.” Students with autism ages 14 to 22 were the center of the party.
Julie Gottesman, Program Coordinator for G.R.A.C.E. said, “I think the most important thing is that the kids have an opportunity that all young people have to enjoy. We are grateful for the generosity of the sponsors.”
Dana Cosgrove proudly wore a wrist corsage of white and mauve roses, perfect accents to a pretty pink dress. Students like Anthony Newsome donned masks and boas. Anthony Grecco took a seat at his table decked with a gold table cloth and purple napkins.
“You look beautiful!” cheered a teacher from the crowd as parents posed for pictures with seniors.
“You look like a rock star!” enthused an aide helping a student into a limo, courtesy of Signature Limousines, staged for photos.
Bernardo Pace, a parent of prom alumna, smiled as he spoke of his daughter, Gina’s involvement of the planning.
“Gina came to the prom in its first two years and she loved it. And I’m proud to say she’s a sponsor of the prom this year!”
Dawn Beacham, Interim Director of G.R.A.C.E. Foundation said, “I think the most important thing is that the kids have an opportunity that all young people have to enjoy. They are happy and thrilled and they just couldn’t wait.”
She and John Bilotti, head of On Your Mark based in West Brighton, echoed the sentiment.
“I would just like to congratulate the North Central Rotary Kiwanis on their fifth year of sponsorship and they do a beautiful job. And to bring three different agencies together…I think it’s a great concept that’s been a successful event for the last five years…unique.”
Leaders of the event included Jamie Arnold, director of Educational Services at Eden II. She said, “It’s a great night where the students get to enjoy a typical event that every other teenager gets to have in high school.”
All the school directors appreciated the sponsorship including that of Aldo Ryan Entertainment with Joseph Deuel and Jonathan Wood, DJ’s who donated their services for the evening. The company has chipped into the party for the last five affairs.
“And, they are fantastic,” said Ms. Arnold.
Orchestration of the prom included efforts of Ms. Arnold, Lauren Grimaldi of Eden II, Mary Giorgio and Eileen Cunningham of On Your Mark and Dawn Beachum of the G.R.A.C.E. Foundation.