The Council for Exceptional Children hosted its annual spring dance for 30 special-needs guests, a Hollywood-style affair that was lights, camera, and plenty of action.
Sean Ramsden

Rider CEC members and their guests mix it up at the Spring Dance, line-dancing to "Everybody Clap Your Hands."

Rider’s chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) rolled out the red carpet at its annual spring dance on Friday, April 26. The Mercer Room was transformed into a glamorous Hollywood affair, with some 30 guests – all Mercer County-area residents with varied cognitive or physical disabilities – arriving dressed as their favorite actors, movie or television characters, or celebrities, and all ready for fun.

Super Mario, Mickey Mouse and the Little Mermaid were represented among the CEC’s guests, as were T-shirts touting Ghostbusters, Men in Black and the Wizard of Oz, among others.

“Indiana Jones, without a doubt,” said Daniel, faithfully outfitted in the film adventurer’s khaki garb, when asked about his favorite character.

There was enthusiastic dancing, while others enjoyed pizza and snacks with the Rider students, all members of CEC, the largest international professional organization supporting the education of children with special needs. Rider’s CEC chapter boasts about 40 active members, and while they host a bingo party in the fall, as well as other community service events, the annual themed spring dance is the CEC’s signature event.

“We met for months to plan, discussing themes and preparing our guest lists,” said Kaitlyn Rokita ’15, who will serve her senior year as CEC president.

Rokita said that the evening’s guests, mostly ranging in age from 15 to 20, but with some as old as 30, often lack quality opportunities to socialize once they graduate high school. Most partygoers here attend or have graduated from Mercer Junior-Senior High School, run under the auspices of Mercer County Special Services.

“It’s a great place to have fun,” added Licia Keevil ’13, the organization’s vice president.

Daniel agreed. “I’m having a great time at the party!” he announced.

Dr. Michele Wilson Kamens, professor and director of Special Education Programs, said the spring dance is a day when the students’ hard work is richly rewarded.

“Everything you see here, it’s all done by our students. Their level of dedication to these events is always incredible,” said Kamens, who, along with Dr. Diane Casale-Giannola, serves as co-adviser to the CEC.