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Anticipating an ‘exceptional’ Halloween dance

Big things are happening at the Throggs Neck Association for the Education of the Exceptional.

The TNAEE, which has been around since 1969, was started by a group of mothers who had children with down syndrome and didn’t quite know where to turn. Now, those same children, some in their 60s, are still part of the support group, which functions as a real-life social network, and it has expanded its reach.

The organization, which works out of the Knights of Columbus on Ampere Avenue, is gearing up for its Halloween dinner dance, which will be a festive celebration and an important fundraising event for the group. They also have a new president, Dana Levinson, who is anything but new to the TNAEE.

Levinson’s uncle John Dimperio, now 48, has been a member since he was 7 years old. Thus Levinson has grown up around the TNAEE and known its members and programming like the back of her hand.

“It means a lot to me and my family,” she said. “We have grown many friendships that we now consider part of our extended family. I grew up in this, I don’t know anything but the Association.”

Regular events that TNAEE offers its members include Saturday afternoons at Van Nest Bowling Lanes, and their biggest draw, a trip to Pine Grove Dude Ranch, where members get a chance to try horseback-riding, hula hoop contests, and egg-toss games.

Currently all of our TNAEE’s members are over 30. The organization is looking for a way to announce its presence and reintroduce its opportunities to the community so that like-minded individuals might check it out.

“We want to welcome new members into the group of all special needs and all ages,” said Levinson. “We want to help be the support for those families and become family with them as well. And we want our special needs members to be role models for younger children.” Levinson is looking for a way to show Throggs Neck that TNAEE is still around.

In time, the Halloween dance might come to serve that purpose, but this year they aren’t quite ready yet to open it up to the public. However, anyone can donate to the cause online at charityblossom.org or by emailing tnaeenew@aol.com

The Halloween dance, which takes place on Friday, October 29, is one of three annual events of its type. The other two are at Christmas and in April. They’ll bring in a DJ, raffle off $200 and $300 prizes, and get the members dancing up a storm.

The TNAEE members are an eclectic bunch. Some are retired from jobs in the US Post Office and New York Botanical Garden, while others are still working every day, some of them at retail chains like Home Depot and Old Navy.

Even before the Halloween dance, TNAEE members will be busy; representatives are marching in the Columbus Day Parade through Morris Park. Those 11 members also attended the Friday, Oct 1 dinner dance.

“The parade will be a big event for us in terms of making ourselves known to the local community,” Levinson said.

“Our doors have always been open.”

Right now, they’re open wide, ready for new additions.

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group