Prom a dream for special needs kids (w/video)

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

June 19, 2014 at 1:19 a.m.
Updated June 21, 2014 at 1:21 a.m.

Kaytlyn Hill, 16, gets her makeup done by Mike Ramirez before the special needs prom June 13. Stylists donated their time to do attendees' hair and makeup for the event.

Kaytlyn Hill, 16, gets her makeup done by Mike Ramirez before the special needs prom June 13. Stylists donated their time to do attendees' hair and makeup for the event.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

Kaytlyn Hill sat motionless in a fold-out metal chair as a volunteer hairdresser elegantly pinned up her long, brunette tendrils.

Then, with just as much poise, she closed her brown eyes and pursed her lips as a makeup artist put on the finishing touches.

The moment she'd had been waiting for was almost here - prom.

The only time a smile didn't play on Hill's lips was when her mother, Rosie Hill, talked about leaving her side, if only for the night.

"I love my mommy," said Hill, who has Williams syndrome.

Her mother, normally cautious about her daughter's comings and goings, was at ease, though. They'd done this before.

"She thinks there's no mean people out there. She thinks everybody is nice, and people can take advantage of that," Rosie Hill said of how Kaytlyn, who, although 16, has the mentality of a 6- or 7-year-old sometimes.

"But there's other moms here who will look out for her," she said, smiling.

One of those moms is Kimberly Rickman. Rickman was behind what was about to unfold in Victoria's Jaycee Hall.

The theme of the night was Once Upon A Dream.

And Rickman and an army of unexpected volunteers she'd gathered from Facebook delivered: A blue and white balloon arch welcomed guests, silver paper stars fell from the sky, and cut-out clouds spotted the room.

Rickman founded Connect 2 Autism this year.

Its predecessor - Autism Network Connection - hosted prom last year at the Victoria Country Club. It was on its way to becoming a nonprofit but was forced to close Jan. 1 after about $7,000 it raised disappeared.

"I'm having to regain everyone's trust," Rickman said of how she hosted bake and garage sales instead of asking for monetary donations.

"If I had to, I was going to pay for the prom out of my own pocket," Rickman said.

Connect 2 Autism, like Autism Network Connection, extended the invitation to prom to anyone with a disability.

More than 145 people reserved their spots.

"They don't always get asked to prom, so I wanted to create something especially for them," Rickman said. "They are so pure-hearted. You know the saying, 'Dance like no one's watching'? Well, they really do dance like no one is watching."

As time ticked by, the boys joined the mix.

Thirty-one-year-old David Madden was eager for his date, Marilyn Krogsgaard, to arrive.

Madden, who has Down syndrome, was sporting a zebra tie befitting his outgoing personality. He and his family were hoping to make this event a tradition.

"We were wondering if prom would happen again," his mother, Maria Madden, said. "Last year, they had limos for the kids to ride in, but I guess they couldn't do that this year because of funds. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that they're getting together. ... It's like one big family."

Twins Heather and Courtney Marbach, 26, were also waiting for friends to arrive.

The twins were born a month and a half before their due date. They've had seizures all their life and a speech impediment.

Heather selected a floor-length blue dress from the many Connect 2 Autism collected from the community.

It looked as if her very own fairy godmother had tapped her head with a wand as her glittery hair was pulled up, too.

"She looks exactly like the Cinderella DVD cover," her mother, Debbie Marbach, said.

Soon, their wish to dance would be granted as the band I-69 and a DJ took the stage.

Kaytlyn Hill was the closest to the stage, bopping along to tunes from Elvis, Brooks & Dunn and Selena as the ones she calls her second Mom and Dad watched from across the room.

Ruben Diaz, 46, and his fiancee, Deanna Blanco, 45, have lived down the street from the Hill family for 12 years.

They asked Rosie Hill if they could accompany her daughter to the prom to give the single mom a night off.

"It was important for me to make this day nice and special for her," Diaz said. "It's been eye-opening to see how involved our community is for these special needs kids, but it's a welcome sight."

Cesilee Montoya, 7, sprung up from her seat and beckoned her mom, Misty Womble, to the dance floor.

Cesilee paused every now and then to kiss Womble or coordinate a twirl with their height differences, living up to her middle name "Joy Avanae."

"That's all she is - just a big bundle of joy," Womble said.

They recently moved from Galveston to Victoria. A friend at Faith Family Church told them about the event.

"I'm just in awe," Womble said.

Cesilee was diagnosed with Mosaic Down syndrome after she was born.

"I almost blamed myself. I thought I had done something wrong," Womble said.

But she's less worried now that she's educated herself and because Cesilee does not have any heart or other health problems.

"She's so outgoing and high functioning," Womble said. "I'm actually kind of scared she'll move out on me. ... She'll definitely be at prom when she gets older."



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