Looking sharp in his tuxedo, complete with a boutonniere, flashy ring and a pair of sparkly black and pink shoes that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the recent Met Gala, Jimmy Palmer was ready to dance, meet girls and eat cookies.
The 72-year-old autistic Springfield man dons his tux each May to attend the Developmental Disabilities of Clark County’s Spring Prom at the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center.
While he looks forward to this every year, Palmer suffered a stroke last summer. His guardian, Jeff Moates, was glad he was able to attend.
“We weren’t sure if he could do many more. But they do a great job here. It’s fun for me watching him have fun,” Moates said.
Moates grew up five doors down from Palmer and he became his guardian at Palmer’s foster father’s request 11 years ago and considers him family, making sure he was looking his best for the prom.
Palmer was among 240 attendees at this year’s prom on Wednesday, May 8. This was the third time DDCC has partnered with the Springfield Rotary Club, many of whom had as good a time as any of the revelers on the floor.
The DJ played a mix of slow songs along with classic rock and country. When “All Shook Up” came on the sound system, Michael Conley shouted “Elvis!” like it was 1956 and sprinted for the dance floor from the back of the room in his white shirt and loosened necktie.
Attendees wore everything from tuxes, dress shirts and formal dresses to matching Cincinnati Reds hat and shirt. In between dances, they could sit down and relax, enjoy refreshments and get pictures at a photo booth.
“This proves music is an international language,” said Rotarian Bill Scarff.
Scarff said the proms get bigger and better each year and if he had any reservation, it was pondering if there were still other developmentally disabled area people who would’ve enjoyed the prom who weren’t there.
“One of our great projects is working with the disadvantaged,” he said. “Events like this are what Rotarians do. We see a need and do something.”
Rotary also sponsors a Dream Soccer program in August and Christmas party for children with disabilities.
Some Rotarians didn’t just listen the music. Several grooved on the sidelines and others boogied down on the dance floor.
Kerry Pedraza found a dance partner in Bruce Scherer, enjoying slow and upbeat dances together. Dian Schmid whirled a young lady in a wheelchair around the floor, smiling the entire time.
The only regret Joy Rogers may have had was not wearing flats as she came off the dance floor after 45 consecutive minutes. But you’d never tell by her smile.
“This is a great chance to be with the community; anything we can do to help,” Rogers said.
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