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Autism agency provides another chance at prom night

June 22, 2013 at 1:22 a.m.

With Sarah Nicholson, 30, left, and Lisa Frieze, 48, right, on his arms, Bryan Gordan, 44, dances away at the Victoria Country Club during Saturday's Special Needs Prom.  Since moving to Victoria from Georgia four months ago, Gordan's sister, Karen Holbert, has taken him to his first movie, concert, rodeo and Saturday was the first dance he has ever attended. "We didn't help him by him coming here," she said. "He blessed us."

Bryan Gordan smiled as he grabbed the hands of two ladies clad in their best formal wear and led them deeper onto the dance floor at the Victoria Country Club.

Dressed to impress in a blue vest with matching tie and perfectly placed white boutonniere, Gordan danced with every woman who accepted his invitation - sometimes more than one at a time.

Although he was a natural, the June 15 Special Needs Prom was the first dance the 44-year-old autistic man had ever attended.

For years, Gordan lived with his elderly father in Georgia, where he spent most of his time at home away from other people. Since his father's death in February, he has come to live in Victoria with his sister. In four months, she has taken him to his first movie, first rodeo, first concert and now - his first prom.

"At his age, we don't want him to miss anything anymore," said Karen Holbert, 54, about spending the night, which was also her birthday, watching her brother dance the night away.

The event, hosted by the Autism Network Connection, was created especially for people like Gordan who may have missed their night in the spotlight.

"Maybe they feel like an outcast; maybe they feel embarrassed; maybe they just don't get asked," said Rosemary Watts, the Victoria group's founder, listing potential reasons why special needs kids miss their prom.

Watts also said she hopes to make the event, which was open to people of all ages in Victoria and the surrounding areas with special needs, an annual affair. After gauging the attendance at the event, she thinks next year may require a larger venue.

The ballroom of the Country Club was packed as a disco ball shone down on more than 100 special needs attendees crowding the dance floor with their dates, caregivers and family members.

"I don't think we've ever had this in the community before," she said. "It has brought so many people together."

As Holbert watched her brother sway and sing along to the music, she saw the amazing transformation from the heavily medicated shut-in she once knew to the grinning social butterfly before her.

"This is my birthday present," she said.



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