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Waukegan pep rally puts Laremont kids in the pink

Alan Seraf4 VernHills hugs pink pom pom surrounded by Waukegan High School dance team during Pink Out event held Laremont

Alan Serafin, 4, of Vernon Hills hugs a pink pom pom surrounded by the Waukegan High School dance team during a Pink Out event held at Laremont School in Gages Lake. Students and staff from the Waukegan High School wind ensemble pep band, JROTC unarmed drill team, dance team, varsity cheerleaders and the boys basketball team performed for students at the Special Education District of Lake County. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Pink Out in third year

The Great Waukegan Pink Out is in it’s third year as a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society and was started by the Waukegan Basketball Parents Association’s James Ross and Basketball Coach Ron Ashlaw, who wanted players to look outside themselves, said Jane Ferry, event chair.

District 60 Superintendent Donaldo Batiste said when the idea was brought to him “I jumped at it.” He said they have expanded the Pink Out to the elementary schools this year with a dance and presentation of trophies at Daniel Webster Middle School.

The school will present a check to to the American Cancer Society before tonight’s basketball game against New Trier, which has one more win than Waukegan and sits at the top of the division. Ferry said they will sell pink ribbons ($1) and T-shirts ($10) at the game and hope to turn over close to $8,000 to the Cancer Society.

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Updated: April 2, 2013 2:06AM

GAGES LAKE — Waukegan High School students brought the Great Waukegan Pink Out to Laremont School where they gave the students with profound cognitive disabilities a little taste of a pep rally.

And they just loved the Bulldog basketball players, Pep Band, poms, cheerleaders and JROTC Drill Team.

Alan Serafin, 4, of Vernon Hills, got a chance to fool around with the basketball players when they lifted him up to a lowered basket in the gymnasium and tried to help him make a dunk. Earlier, Serafin made a mad dash for the cheerleaders and he had to return to his seat until the meet-and-greet after the program.

Serafin loved hanging onto the rim, and every time Cornell Fort, 19, co-captain of the team, tried to give him the ball, Serafin would smack it away and laugh. “Oh, flagrant foul,” joked Fort as Serafin pushed the ball away again and smiled. “It’s great to see these kids smile,” said Fort.

“We love to do this for them. A lot of people don’t get opportunities we have,” he said, agreeing it can be humbling. “I enjoy it.”

Diana Gaines, who was assigned to Serafin for the rally and is an early childhood teacher, said the little guy sat and watched the program when usually he can’t sit still too long.

“He is loving the interaction. This is my favorite event of the year,” she said.

At one point, Laremont Principal Mary Sowers and Waukegan School District Superintendent Donaldo Batiste bumped into each other in the gym. “It’s such a wonderful experience for your kids and our kids,” said Sowers, “And it’s infectious,” replied Batiste as the Pep Band rocked the house for the poms.

The players also played with Jayden Boyce, 6, of Beach Park, who has been invited to go to the Special Olympics in March at Illinois State University to show off his dribbling and passing skills. The players helped him with his shooting.

“He can’t compete yet, but he gets to go down and demonstrate his skills,” said Mary Kelly, special Olympics athletic director for young athletes at Laremont. She got the players to pose with Boyce.

Laremont student Eva Masionis, 7, of the Lake Villa area was sitting in her wheelchair when a group of pom members greeted her. Tia Coldman, 19, and Samantha Patterson, 17, got down to her level and the little girl just loved fingering the pink poms the dancers had with them. “I like seeing them be able to be happy and enjoy things,” said Patterson.

Juan Garcia was amazed at how many students wanted to tap on his multiple drums set-up he plays for the Pep Band and Marching Band. “I love this place,” he said, “Drums are great for relieving stress and they just want to bang on the drum. Every single time, I saw a smile,” he said.

The JROTC Drill Team at one point surrounded James Diaz, 7, of the Round Lake area. When they learned he liked the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” song, the whole troop did the song for him and he just beamed while sitting in his wheelchair. As the cadets left to gather for their return to Waukegan, Jaison Banks, 17, yelled ahead to Mariah Manning, 16. “Mia, he’s crying,” he told her. Just seconds before she had given him a big smile and told him she would see him next year.

“He just started jumping when we sang the song,” she said, “He was a little upset when we left.” She likes the program. “It can be really fun to be with the kids,” she said and Banks agreed, “It’s cool to see them smile and laugh,” he said, although they both felt bad for Diaz.

The students from both schools mingled for almost a half hour. James Ross, who helped start the event three years ago and has worked for SEDOL for 30 years, is a graduate of Waukegan High School (Class of 68) and has two kids in the Waukegan school system.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these kids,” he said. “It’s just awesome, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the Illinois Central Bus Company who donated the buses to get the kids here. We couldn’t have covered that expense,” he said.

“This so much fun for our kids,” said Principal Sowers, recalling how students Matthew Roach, 12, of the Grayslake area loved the ROTC marching moves (his father is in the service) and how Chayse Mumford, 12, of the Ingleside area, just lit up for the dancers and cheerleaders. “He just loves the girls,” Sowers said.

“This is just a win-win situation,” she said afterward.

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