Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For Halloween, special needs get a special party

Sly Marchesano, 11, and his brother Ian Schaeffer, 11 months, enjoy themselves at Aripeka Elks Lodge 2520’s Halloween party.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times

Sly Marchesano, 11, and his brother Ian Schaeffer, 11 months, enjoy themselves at Aripeka Elks Lodge 2520’s Halloween party.

HUDSON — William LeVoy is 48 and, this year, he wanted to be a monster for Halloween.

"Let me show you," he said, his cape flowing in the breeze, and pulled his scary mask over his face. "I picked it out in the store."

Then he took it off again, as it was stuffy and hot, and smiled wide, an infectious smile, his cheeks ruddy from the sun.

It was Thursday afternoon and LeVoy and his mother waited in line outside the Aripeka Elks Lodge 2520 for their annual Halloween party for children and adults with special needs. LeVoy lives with his mother in Hudson and found out about the party through his adult day care program. This was his first time.

"I'm excited," he said.

Officially, the doors open at 5 p.m., but every year they open earlier as kids, adults and their families and caretakers start lining up around 4. Near LeVoy was Star Lathrop, a 29-year-old who stood in line with her mother, Kay Lathrop. This year, Star chose to be an emergency room nurse, with a green cap, scrubs and a stethoscope around her neck, because she was in the hospital recently for problems with her liver. The nurses and doctors were very nice to her, she said.

"I'm fine now," she whispered, shyly. Her mom said she was quiet because she was focused on the doors opening to the party.

"It's just overwhelming what they do for these kids," Kay Lathrop said of the Elks volunteers who have hosted this event for more than 20 years — all through donations and hard work.

As the doors open and the kids and adults get inside, they first trick-or-treat through a fake neighborhood, which is much like a theater set, of homes with volunteers passing out candy. Then they get food — pizza, hot dogs, soda — and can play games and get their faces painted. Everyone gets a raffle ticket and listens for their name to be called to get a prize. But the secret is that everyone gets one. No one is excluded.

Bob Stoner, an Elks member and volunteer, said getting donations this year for the 500 party-goers was tough because of the economy. "We had to beg," he said. "But we got them, though."

Geri Wojcik has volunteered here for 12 years. This year she handed out candy bars.

"I used to do clowning, out on the floor," she said. "But I cried too much."

The emotions are high here. Volunteers get teary-eyed looking at the kids with severe needs. Some can't move and can't talk and use feeding tubes — but they still get excited about dressing up and give their candy to others who can eat. But no one wants pity.

Everyone here can look around and find fellowship and reasons to be thankful — regardless of how bad a situation might be, there is always someone undergoing something that can be viewed as worse.

"The kids can relax and be themselves," said Heather Schaeffer, 32, who was there with her husband and four children.

Her 11-year-old son, Sly Marchesano, is slightly autistic.

"Here, he doesn't have to worry about being made fun of," said Jack Schaeffer, Sly's step­father.

Mary Caceres was there with her husband and three grandchildren. They are new to the world of special needs.

"You feel so lost," said Mary Caceres, who held her 3 1/2 year old granddaughter, Maryn Caceres, on her lap. Maryn was born with cerebral palsy and some other afflictions, while her twin, Caitlyn, is fine.

Caitlyn ran around playing games with her older sister, Breana, 6. Maryn can't talk or move well, but she's so calm, watching and studying the world. Caceres calls her a Zen Baby and said her friends ask to hold her, because it makes them feel peaceful.

At the party, Caceres made new friends who understand.

"It makes you realize that you're not alone," she said, and hugged Maryn tight.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4609.

For Halloween, special needs get a special party 10/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 24, 2008 10:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Photo gallery: 20 mugshots of pro athletes arrested in Florida - 1994 to 2017

    News

    In light of today's arrest of Tiger Woods in Jupiter, Florida on DUI charges, here are 20 booking mugs of professional athletes who have been arrested in Florida, from 1994 (Jennifer Capriati) to today (Woods).

    Desmond Bryant - 2005 - Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Desmond Bryant was arrested in Miami on charges of criminal mischief after allegedly "going to a neighbor's house inebriated and causing a commotion." 

  2. For starters: Rays at Rangers, with Erasmo on the mound again

    Blogs

    Coming off Sunday's 6 1/2-hour, 15-inning marathon win over the Twins, the Rays will have the pitcher who finished that game, Erasmo Ramirez, start tonight's game in Texas, first pitch 8:05 Tampa Bay time.

    Ramirez threw only 12 pitches on Sunday so the Rays decided to let him make his planned start tonight, …

  3. Curlew Hills Memory Gardens honors Memorial Day (w/video)

    Blogs

       Curlew Hills Memory Gardens honored those that served during their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with …

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor.
  4. Authorities release name of Tampa woman killed in Temple Terrace apartment fire

    Fire

    TEMPLE TERRACE — Authorities have released the name of a woman who died in a fire that destroyed a dozen units in an apartment complex here Sunday.

    Firefighters battle an early-morning fire Sunday that claimed the life of 28-year-old Tenecia Renee Brannon and left about 30 others homeless. [Temple Terrace Fire Department]
  5. New Port Richey restaurant worker shoots attacker

    Crime

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A restaurant kitchen worker shot and injured a man who entered the business and began beating him Saturday, according to New Port Richey Police.

    Vince Angelety, 29, of New Port Richey faces a charge of burglary with simple battery. He remained in the Land O'Lakes Detention Center on Monday, held without bail. [Photo courtesy of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office]