Some were on foot. Others were in wheelchairs. But nothing stopped them from smiling and laughing as they danced with teachers and friends at Willow Brook Country Club.
For at least 30 years, the club's board of directors has sponsored a holiday party for Tyler ISD students with special needs.
First it was for the St. Louis School, which formerly served TISD's students with special needs. Now it is for the students from the Wayne D. Boshears Center for Exceptional Programs.
The event included a formal holiday meal in the club's ballroom, a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus and music provided by DJ Kenny Smith. Students also received a stuffed animal as a present.
“I think it's just a good way that Willow Brook shows that we support the community,” Willow Brook event coordinator Lana Adams said.
Willow Brook banquet manager Willie Marvels said the event is particularly meaningful to him because his brother attended the St. Louis School many years ago.
“It's the kids,” Marvels said. “We love them. We do.”
Boshears Center Principal Karyn Hacker said the event serves several purposes.
Students who use communication devices, practice communicating with those.
And, it also is a time for students to get to do something that they may seldom have the chance to do — dance.
Student Juan Carachure enjoyed the opportunity to bust a few moves.
As he grooved to the beat, his teachers egged him on with shouts of, “Go Juan! Go Juan!”
Rex Tullos was one of several students in wheelchairs who took to the dance floor with their teachers and other Boshears Center staff.
Nurse Pat Sullivan and teacher assistant Ivory Campbell encouraged Rex to dance.
Katie Kennard was on her feet and danced the time away with teacher assistant Chelsea Ware.
Ms. Ware twirled Katie and attempted to dip her as well.
As the event came to a close, Smith prepared to play the traditional last song.
Teachers and students circled up around the dance floor, held hands and sang, “That's What Friends are For.”