When prom season rolls around, nostalgia tags along—at least for those who are beyond those festive years. So, May 12, ladies from around the Region dusted off their finery to rock out to their very own Mom Prom at the Hall of Justice in Crown Point. The occasion offered an opportunity to get dressed up with friends and dance all night, and the chance to support a wonderful cause: raising awareness and research funding for Rett Syndrome.
Rett Syndrome is a rare neurological disorder that primarily affects females. The impact it has on those affected acts on a spectrum—some cannot speak, some cannot walk, some cannot feed themselves, some have daily seizures. Mimi Burke’s 16-year-old daughter, Sophia, has Rett Syndrome and suffers from nearly all of these symptoms.
“A lot of people have never had the privilege of knowing a child with Rett Syndrome,” Burke said. “[Sophia] is in a body that simply refuses to work, but she understands everything. She hears you, she sees you, and she just wants to be a sassy 16-year-old, sometimes. But her body doesn’t allow it.”
Three years ago, Burke decided to host a Mom Prom to help spread knowledge on this disorder, as well as raise funds to contribute to Girl Power 2 Cure, an organization dedicated to research and supporting families like Burke’s. This year, the third in sequence, the event was packed.
“Our goal was to sell 130 tickets—we sold over 150,” said Susie Lubotina, Burke’s best friend and “right-hand-man.”
The night presents a wonderful opportunity to celebrate friendships and champion a cause.
“It’s a fun night—I mean, who doesn’t want to dress up and go out with their friends?” Burke said. “But it’s equally about filling a room full of women. Rett Syndrome primarily affects women. And so what is more powerful than 160 women—moms and daughters and sisters—who can say, ‘We fought this. We fought this together.’”
Sponsored in part by Extended Care, the event was open to all local females. Regional Directors of Business Development for Extended Care, Kelly Petty and Amy Nikruto, were both in attendance, as were representatives from Extended Care’s many facilities.
“We love Mimi and her daughter, Sophia, and this is just a great way for us, as an organization, to support a great cause and to have a little fun while doing it,” Nikruto said.
Nikruto, who brought her daughter like she does every year, said that Burke is a good friend of hers and that she and her Extended Care reps make every attempt to stand behind her and Sophia.
“She’s just an amazing individual,” Nikruto said of Burke. “We’ve tried to participate in every event that she [organizes.] She does a great job raising awareness for Rett Syndrome. Any way that we can support her, we do.”
A silent auction took place to raise money for Rett Syndrome research, and more than 60 raffle items were donated from various local businesses.
Attendee Lauren Skaggs first heard about the event through a friend, whose cousin suffers from Rett Syndrome and knows the Burkes.
“[My cousin] invited me three years ago, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that sounds fun! I need a night out,’” Skaggs said. “I had no idea it would be this cool. I anticipate it every year now.”
Skaggs said she loves Mom Prom for Rett because it’s fun with a message behind it.
“When you’re in your mid-30’s, and your kids are approaching their teens, and most of your friends are married, you don’t have a lot of real events to go to,” Skaggs said. “So [Mom Prom for Rett is] the perfect thing. And it’s for an awesome cause! I love being here.”
By the end of the night, a Prom Queen was crowned, Culver’s ice cream was served, and everyone was kicking their shoes off to dance. Everyone had an absolute ball, and the purpose of all the fun was never far from mind.
“I love this event, because I look out here and I look at all of you women and I think, ‘There is absolutely nothing more powerful,’” Burke said during her brief message to the crowd. “And I have zero doubt in my mind and in my heart that Rett Syndrome will be cured.”
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