Behind a dark curtain, she could almost feel the heat permeate from a spotlight. Soon, she’d step into the bright, sizzling light — alone.
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Overwhelming cheers pulsated throughout the Cedar Point Center at BGSU Firelands College, as audience members applauded her style — she donned a light blue dress resembling Cinderella’s famed outerwear — and confidence.
“She walked down, turned around and came back all by herself,” said Brooke Gammie, Payton’s mom.
Payton, along with about 20 other children, participated in the second annual “A Night to Shine” event this past Tuesday.
The event, sponsored by Erie County Board of Developmental Disabilities, featured children no older than 3 enrolled in the organization’s early intervention programs.
The programs provide aid to children diagnosed with a symptom affecting their development. “It’s important that when you suspect your child has a developmental delay to be involved and understand how to best help them,” said Jessica Hayes, the board’s occupational therapist.
Agency workers help the children overcome the challenges by creating fun, interactive environments, such as fashion shows. In the past, workers have scheduled scavenger hunts, reading events with area firefighters and play outings in mud.
Ideally, the children learn to socialize with peers and adults.
The event served to showcase the children’s personalities and also introduce them and their families to others experiencing similar developmental delays. “Events like this make me feel like I’m part of the community,” said Gammie, who recently moved from Phoenix, Ariz., and pointed out how Erie County provides better services for Payton than her old neighborhood could.
“Events like this make Payton feel special, and I can interact with other moms. It makes me happy to be part of this.” Local organizations and businesses donated $3,000 to sponsor the event and provide each participating family with prizes.
Target led the sponsorships by providing $2,000. “We just have an amazing community that has helped make (this event) special,” Hayes said. “Hopefully, we put a big smile on ’s face.”