‘Royal DJs’ With Special Needs Life Of The Party
LAKE WORTH, Fla. — It was hard to talk above the music on a recent Saturday night at the Stardust Dance, a social gathering for those with disabilities where about 40 people were rocking the gymnasium floor.
The room was dark, the dancers serious, the DJs focused on finding the next song.
Requests flooded in to the DJs, seated side by side and equipped with a fancy Pioneer computerized music board.
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“Can you play ‘YMCA’?” asked a dancer with Down syndrome.
“Do you have any Pitbull?” yelled a man in a wheelchair, trying to be heard above the heavy bass.
The DJs, who also have disabilities, were thrilled to search for the songs on their colorful instrument panel. They delight in their occasional profession, glad to have work and friends, new skills, a challenge, a purpose.
Rex Blazer III, 20, has cerebral palsy, as does Ross Hutton, 24, in a milder form. Domenick Veglia, 17, lives with a seizure disorder and other developmental delays. They comprise the Royal DJs, along with three other students and former students of Royal Palm School, a public school in Lantana for young people with severe disabilities.
With limited social opportunities, families of those with disabilities often search for chances to get their children, and themselves, to take part in the outside world.
Sheri Hazeltine, a Delray Beach lawyer and Blazer’s mother, came up with the idea in 2009 when Royal Palm School needed entertainment for a school dance.
She figured a computerized music panel, consisting of 5,000 tunes, could be easily adapted for her son and others with limited mobility. Hazeltine attended Scratch DJ Academy in Miami to learn the basics and teach them to her son and his friends. She then started to put out the word that the Royal DJs were available for parties.
They were booked every weekend during the holiday season and sporadically throughout the year. Although they don’t charge nonprofits that can’t afford to pay them, they get $200 for two hours of music at private parties.
“I love to get out of the house,” said “DJ Ross” Hutton, who lives with his adoptive parents and 10 siblings who also have disabilities. He takes Palm Tran, the public transportation service, to his gigs. “I feel all cooped up in the house.”
The deejays need the help of their parents or other aides to complete some of their musical tasks. Veglia’s mother placed his hand on the keyboard to select a new song; Hazeltine moved her son to a blanket on the floor when he became overheated in his wheelchair after a lengthy series of tunes.
Parties for their peers with disabilities represent most of their engagements, although they entertained at a wedding in West Palm Beach last year. Bride Milory Senat and groom Tom Inskeep had seen them at a United Cerebral Palsy event in 2014 and invited them to work their celebration.
Senat said they fulfilled all of her musical requests, including songs by Billy Ocean, Air Supply and Elton John.
“Everybody had a ball. Everybody was on the dance floor,” Senat said. “We were dancing so much we forgot to do a toast.”
The Royal DJs want to do more parties for “normies,” or people who don’t have disabilities, said Debby Veglia, mother of Domenick.
“We want them to see what our kids can do,” she said.
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