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Dream night: Teens with special needs party at their own prom

On June 23, the 86th Street Bath Beach Kiwanis Club held its second annual Dream Prom, a free prom for teenagers in the community with special needs.

Around 150 teens, their aides and parents attended the prom at Sirico’s in Dyker Heights Most of the young adults were autistic, but the club welcomed any teen with special needs, ages 15 to 21.

“Today autism seems to be prevalent everywhere you turn,” Stephen Spinelli, the club president, said. “We wanted children who are on the spectrum to have an experience no different than any other young person in the community.”

Starting in the evening, teens in tuxedoes, suits and dresses filed in and immediately hit the dance floor when the DJ played music.

“They’re having a good time,” said Grace Coscona, the mother of two teens from AHRC Middle/High School at the prom, Evan and Zachery. “It’s been more [than I expected].”

Over the past four months, the club’s prom committee organized the night thanks in part to community donations. According to Spinelli, everything at the prom was donated, including Sirico’s hall, the DJ’s services and a limousine from a local limo company in which the teens took pictures.

“This community is so tight-knit, it’s easy to get everyone together and to donate,” Jordyn Buglione, an organizer and club member, said.

A Kiwanis fundraiser held April 30 partly funded the prom. At that fundraiser, called the pre-Dream Prom, the club raised around $4,000 from a $20 cover charge and auxiliary donations. According to Walter Capece, the club raised enough money through the pre-Dream Prom and other donations to cover the prom’s costs.

“Out of all of our giving efforts, we treat this as our little baby,” Capece said.

Their efforts were appreciated.

“She should have this experience, this moment in life,” said Veronica Maldonado, whose sister Aaliyah went to the prom and goes to St. Catherine Laboure School.

“They’re kids too,” said Toni-Lisa Wallace, the cousin of Akeem Adam, who attends the HeartShare School. “They need to have fun, just like any other normal person.”

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