Special Needs Prom Friday | News, Sports, Jobs

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Brother and sister William and Annabelle Roznowski pose with some of the decorations they helped put up in preparation for Friday’s prom.

ALPENA — Friday will be a special night for many in town. The APlex is hosting its Special Needs Prom, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

The event was listed under the wrong day in Tuesday’s community calendar.

The public is invited to come and discover the Candy Land-themed decor between noon and 3 p.m. on Friday.

Organizers look forward to providing this special evening for those in the community who don’t often get the opportunity to dress up and have fun at a formal event.

“It’s an opportunity to experience a level of fun and excitement, and a sense of being valued,” said Larry Johns, Principal of Pied Piper.

He said all Pied Piper students have been invited to the Special Needs Prom, and he expects about two dozen of them to attend.

Some of the students have been busy making decorations, Johns added. They are not helping with the installation this year because he thought it would be better for the students to experience the surprise when entering the decorated ballroom.

He added that every student deserves fun events like a prom.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Johns said. “It’s recognizing that they have a right. They don’t just need the basics. They also need these opportunities.

On the decorating and planning side, APlex Events Coordinator Elaine Sommerfeld said she started planning for this year’s theme right after last year’s event.

“We started planning this the day after prom last year,” Sommerfeld said. “Then in January we went ahead with making things.”

Some of the (non-edible) accessories include larger-than-life lollipops made from pool noodles, a life-size gingerbread house, and huge cotton candy pouffes that look good enough to eat.

“That theme sort of slipped my mind,” Sommerfeld said. “Or, from my mouth, should I say, last year. Because the guests want to know on the evening of the ball, before leaving, what is next year’s theme, because they are impatiently awaiting it.

She said 225 people were registered to attend the event, which caters to people of all ages with special needs.

“They don’t have to prove they have special needs in any way,” she explained. “They can just come and enjoy the night. We have dresses for the ladies and suits for the men that have been donated, and they can come and try them on before the event.

She said they started about a month ago letting people come in and pick out clothes, which they can then keep.

“They get a catered three-course seated meal,” she said. “We have young people from the area who come to help serve. And we have a DJ so they can dance for a few hours. It’s a fun night for them.

She said the community has been very generous in helping to make the prom possible. Supporting organizations include Alpena County Youth and Recreation Millage, Alpena Lions Club, Northland Area Federal Credit Union, Alpena Alcona Area Credit Union, Gordon Food Service, Dean Transportation, Hunters Harvest, Nicolet Bank, I Do Cakes, Pied Piper Transitions class, Walmart, IGA of Perch, J&M Catering, the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, and more.

“Many, many volunteers came together to make this a very special night for all of our special needs population,” Sommerfeld said.

She said it costs guests nothing, but that level of entertainment and catering would normally cost around $25 per person.

“They love it,” Sommerfeld said of guests attending the Special Needs Prom. “They’re really, really looking forward to it.”

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