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RACINE — The torrential downpour couldn’t dampen the spirits or thunderous applause as 103 dashing and radiant prom-goers made their way down the soggy red carpet on Sunday in Racine.

It was the second prom for special needs in the past two years. The free event was hosted for those with special needs ranging in age from 15 to 24. Lani Renneau, special needs prom event director, said 103 prom-goers attended this year’s event at Festival Hall, 5 Fifth St., up 23 from last year’s prom at Gateway Technical College.

Prom-goers received free prom dress and tuxedo rentals, and stylists did their hair and makeup, Renneau said.

This year’s special needs prom featured a “family experience” tent. Renneau said it would be hooked up with a live feed from inside the dance, so parents could watch their children, but more closely resemble the full prom experience for participants.

“We want them to have their time. It’s important,” she explained.

Milwaukee resident Lisa Mamayek admitted she was one of those parents for which that tent was designed. Her 17-year-old son, Trevor, is autistic and nonverbal, and sometimes events become overwhelming.

“At first when we let him go with the four hosts, he looked back at us like (widening her eyes),” Mamayek said. Her son was paired with four youth hosts and “they’re like, ‘Mom, go have fun.’ I’ll try. I’ll try.”

Her son wasn’t keen on trying on his tux, she said. But Sunday afternoon he didn’t pull at it as he did previously, she explained.

“You can definitely feel he’s taking everything in,” Mamayek said. “I like that he’s around other peers his age.”

Nina Ceccato, 21, of Milwaukee, said she attended prom in high school, but “it wasn’t a good prom.” The bash Sunday evening in Racine?

“It’s wonderful,” said Ceccato, dressed in a silver strapless gown and dainty tiara.

“These girls are very lovely and (are) helping me out very much,” she said of Bailey Cameron, 17, and Alex Geidner-Kirby, 18, both of Kenosha, who were her hosts Sunday evening.

Sunday evening’s event was the third prom for Emily Brunner, 18, of Grayslake, Ill. She called the Racine event “very good” and liked the music the best.

“It’s kinda cool because I had some police officers and firefighters shake my hands,” Bradford High School student Nathan Barnes, 17, of Kenosha, said of his first prom experience.

Just as cool? He arrived in a party bus. Barnes said he hoped to sit with some police officers and his friends from Harborside Academy in Kenosha and Bradford High.


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