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Special needs prom held in NY Mills

Sam Benshoof/FOCUS The New York Mills City Hall was filled with special needs prom goers on April 15. This was the eighth year of the event, according to Perham High School DCD instructor Marlette Anderson-Otto.

Roughly 160 high school students and adults with special needs gathered in the New York Mills City Hall Ballroom on April 15 for the annual special needs prom.

Prom goers came from places like Frazee and Staples and everywhere in between, said Marlette Anderson-Otto, DCD instructor at Perham High School who organized the event.

Otto said that area people with disabilities always look forward to the prom.

"It's an event where they know they can be comfortable and where they can be themselves," Anderson-Otto said. "It's also great for them for reconnecting with their friends and to practice their social skills."

The prom was DJ'ed by a man who has provided the entertainment for all eight of the special needs proms, Anderson-Otto said.

"It's a huge drive for him to come here for this," she said, "but he loves working this event. He loves it, and he has a passion for these people."

Anderson-Otto said she appreciated the support of local businesses, civic groups and community organizations. The NY Mills Lions Club, she said, provided unlimited refreshments for prom-goers, and the Eagles Café provided lunch.

Other groups such as the Perham and Ottertail Lions Clubs, the Perham Women of Focus group and the NY Mills New Horizons Club all helped support the event.

Even more encouraging, Anderson-Otto said, was that local high school students approached her in the weeks leading up to the event asking if they could chaperone.

"It's nice to have people like that come to us and say they want to help," she said. "It's great that high schoolers want to give back like that."

Brianna Bennett, sophomore at PHS, volunteered at the door prize table.

"It makes you feel good, seeing how much fun they're having," she said. "It just looks like they're having a great time."