Blind World Magazine

American Ideal winner looks forward to Stardust Ball.

November 06, 2005.
The Journal News (NY).

For years Hope Caldwell has been hearing about the Stardust Ball, an event where Rockland residents with disabilities dress up for a night of food, drink and celebration.

This year she will attend the ball for the first time, and shine as the star of the night.

The 22-year-old Nyack resident is this year's winner of the American Ideal talent contest, and will perform before 300 of her peers at the ball on Friday at the Sheraton Crossroads in Mahwah, N.J.

"I'm very excited because I've never been to one of these balls before," said Caldwell, who is blind and participates in a program at Jawonio. "I've done concerts. But this is going to be the biggest I've done."

American Ideal is geared to people of all ages primarily served by Jawonio and other Rockland agencies that work with the developmentally disabled, such as ARC and Camp Venture. Others, such as students with disabilities studying in the region, also may participate to showcase their talent, whatever that may be.

"We've seen everything from card tricks, people reading their poems, jazz dancers and soloists," said Laurie Post, ARC's director of recreation and leisure services. "One of our finalists this year did an Irish step dance."

At the contest two weeks ago, Caldwell bested four other American Ideal finalists with a rendition of Olivia Newton-John's "Hopelessly Devoted to You" from the "Grease" soundtrack.

She hopes to perform the same song Friday.

In the days before the ball, Caldwell will be practicing the song, which she will sing a capella.

More than 300 people in tuxedos and evening gowns are expected for the three-hour party. Each man receives a boutonniere and each woman a corsage upon entering. They'll be treated to a four-course dinner and dance to a live band.

The event, which has been sponsored by Rockland ARC since 1987, is perhaps one of the few times of the year when the disabled literally are in the spotlight.

"Everybody is king and queen for the night," said Post. "It's a black-tie affair. Everyone is dressed to the T. It's like a Cinderella ball every year."

Debbie Greene, 49, of New Hempstead has been going to the Stardust Ball for several years, but she still looks forward to it with excitement.

"There is dancing, the food is pretty good," said Greene, who plans to wear a brown dress with sequins for the ball. "They come and take pictures of the Stardust ball. I'm looking forward to it."

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