Magic made at Rose Ball

Special needs children from South Philly and beyond enjoyed a Disney-themed night of dinner, dancing and good times with their favorite characters

Rose Campolongo and other special needs children enjoyed a memorable Disney-themed night, which included an encounter with Snow White. Photo by Starshield Entertainment and Photobooths, LLC

By Bill Gelman

Popular Disney characters Snow White, Rapunzel and Darth Vader are known to frequent the same hang-out spots. Getting up close with them for a selfie usually requires booking a trip to the most magical place on earth, better known as Walt Disney World. However, being Halloween season, it does not come as a surprise that this beloved trio, along with the web-slinger Spider-Man, were all spotted together greeting youngsters at Galdo’s, 1933 W. Moyamensing Ave., snapping pictures with a bunch of smiling children on Oct. 20. The Rose Ball, named for 8-year-old Girard Estate resident Rose Campolongo, brought together about 80 special needs children, accompanied by their parents, for a night of dinner, dancing and fun.They came from South Philly, Northeast Philly, Delaware County, South Jersey and other local towns and joined Rose, who suffers from Down syndrome and autism, for a memorable night. This special event was put together by Rose’s mother Noelle Pawlowski. Instead of hosting a fundraiser in which the event proceeds go toward research, this night was all about the guests of honor, some as old as 27.

“I wanted to do something for them to have fun,” Pawlowski said. “Everything went directly toward the dance.”

The theme, of course, was a no-brainer as Rose has been going to Disney World regularly since 2011. The trips to Florida started to visit her uncle, who has since passed away, and has developed into a regular Disney routine, which includes celebrating Halloween there this week. The resort has a reputation for rolling out the royal carpet for children with special needs. The Rose Ball featured a touch of that Disney Magic with “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “Cars,” “Toy Story” and “Moana” themed centerpieces.

The dance brought together individuals of various disabilities, including some with autism and cerebral palsy, dressed as they would for a school dance. Local 98, Pat’s King of Steaks, Ippolito’s Seafood, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci and Galdo’s were a handful of the generous donors who made the night possible.

The guest list for this inaugural bowl came together by word of mouth, including a 21-year-old who attended her first dance.

One of the attendees also walked away with a first-ever trip to Disney World. The prize recipient does a lot of work for the T21 Club of the Delaware Valley, part of the national Down Syndrome Society out of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“I wanted someone to go to Disney World and benefit from it like Rose does,” Pawlowski said.

Come next fall, there is a good chance that those A-list Disney stars will return to South Philly to put smiles on the faces of some very special kids.

“I want to see more kids to come and enjoy themselves,” she said.