A very special celebration for Empire teen
There was something incongruous about the music blasting from the Farmington’s Rambling River Center on a recent Saturday afternoon. The seniors who usually occupy the building probably don’t play Taylor Swift quite so loud, and it seems safe to assume that Saturday was the first time anybody in the building had learned how to Dougie.
The party was a little different than the typical Rambling River Center gathering. It was put on by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in honor of Boeckman Middle School seventh grader Taylor Albeck.
The city of Farmington donated the Rambling River space for the party.
Taylor, 13, was diagnosed shortly after birth with a rare disorder called non-ketotic hyperglycinemia. Her older brother, Jacob, who has a less severe form of the same disorder, received his own Make-A-Wish moment in 2012 when community groups and the family’s Empire Township neighborhood came together to throw a parade.
Taylor’s party featured a different kind of community coming together. The attendees at the party were Taylor’s classmates from BMS. There were regular-education students from her Tiger Time class, as well as classmates from her special education classroom.
Students came up to Taylor throughout the three-hour party to say hello. Though Taylor doesn’t speak, students would sit with her and talk. They gathered around her whenever she made her way to the dance floor.
Seeing that kind of interaction made Taylor’s mother, Michelle Albeck, very happy.
“As I looked back on it, it was just really great to have this inclusive event where we had special needs kids, typical kids together at a dance, and that’s what’s so fabulous,” Michelle said.
Taylor has non-verbal cues that let people know when she’s happy. With her favorite musician – Taylor Swift – playing at high volume, Taylor was very happy Saturday.
“She loved the excitement of the event, which she showed with her smiling, and people coming up to her and talking to her and dancing around her or sitting by her,” Michelle said. “It’s what you want. It’s what you really strive to have people do. You don’t want it to be forced. You want people to come to it naturally. I’m really impressed by this class.”
In addition to Saturday’s party, Taylor’s wish included the construction of a sensory room in the family’s home. The new room has an easy-to-operate switch Taylor can use to control her music, and it has lights along the walls that help sooth her. There are lights that look like green stars on her ceiling.
“We’re just trying to make life easier for her and also her caregivers,” Michelle said.
After two Make-A-Wish events that have drawn friends, family and complete strangers to the family’s side, Michelle said she is impressed by the community that surrounds her.
“It was really heartwarming,” she said.