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Joy Prom ‘23 Brings Hundreds Together To “Celebrate 10 Years of God’s Faithfulness”

Story and Photographs by Sherrie Norris

The message was clear to the hundreds of guests, chaperones and volunteers attending Saturday’s Joy Prom at Alliance Bible Fellowship in Boone: We are all special in God’s sight and we are loved.

 It was especially clear to the guests for whom the event is held every year — teens and adults with special needs —whether medical, intellectual and/or developmental. 

“Picture this… 10 years of God’s Faithfulness!” was the celebratory theme for the 2023 event. Countless photos were displayed throughout the church gymnasium, and videos were running across TV screens for all to see, encapsulating the success of the last decade of Joy Proms in Boone. And cameras were clicking away on Saturday, as many new memories were in the making.

And about this 2023 Joy Prom? It was certainly one more huge success, everyone agreed.

Months of planning, days of preparation and hours of fun were evident during the afternoon party for all who were involved.

Just a week earlier, the guests had been invited to a “Party Before the Party” upstairs in the church atrium to choose and be fitted with their festive attire —dresses, shirts, coats, shoes and accessories — all of which had been donated by the community.  For several days prior to the prom, sponsors and volunteers came together to transform the gymnasium and adjoining rooms into a party atmosphere that rivaled Hollywood’s red carpet events.  

On hand for the main event were 250 volunteers, making sure that the event was more than special for the approximate 200 guests and around 150 chaperones, many of which were family members or residential staff who came to share the day with their loved ones.

Before the guests arrived, the volunteers gathered for a welcome and prayer by church pastor, Scott Andrews, who described Joy Prom as “one of my favorite events of the year!” Andrews expressed gratitude to his church family, especially Ronnie and Anne Margaret Wright, for their ministry leadership through the last 10 years, and to all those who were giving of their time, talent and energy, to make it all possible.

Then, as guests formed a line beneath a large white tent outside the gym, the majority of volunteers — aka “the cheer team” — lined the red carpet and cheered for each guest as his or her name was called upon entrance by emcee, Mike Bosse; other volunteers were pinning on boutonnieres for the males and adjusting tiaras for the women as they prepared to take their walk of fame. 

At the end of their walk, guides escorted each one to their choice of “pampering stations,”  whether for hair-dos, manicures or shoeshines. Again, volunteers manned the stations to help with the finishing touches before guests moved on to the photo booth for professional shots; then, they returned to the main gym, where they awaited music for dancing, with DJ Julia Moretz spinning the tunes, and a late afternoon boxed snack, assembled by volunteers with sandwiches provided by Stick Boy Bakery, one of about 20 sponsors for the prom. (See complete list of sponsors below.)

 Among the sponsors, Bencita Brooks with De la Cruz Farm, had this to say, “The Joy Prom . . . what a wonderful opportunity to display God’s love and truth, and to be surrounded by people serving others in a tangible way. It’s a time of fellowship and fun as individuals of all abilities gather together to laugh, dance and relate to one another. There are special memories made over the past 10 years that exhibit the truth that God made all of us in His image and with unique abilities. We are very blessed to be part of it all.”

For first-time guest, Holland Edmisten of Boone, who recently turned 13, it was indeed a special occasion. She was not only accompanied by her big brother, Luke, who served as a volunteer, escorting guests down the red carpet, but also by her parents, Tim and Laura, her sister Brooklyn, her grandparents, Carl and Jo Ann Johnson, and her aunt Angela Brown. “This was so much fun for all of us,” said her grandmother with a big smile.

Debbie Whitson came with her son, Wesley Ward, from Ashe County. “We haven’t been (here) since the very first one, but we’re glad to be here today.” As a show of love for his mother, Ward planted a kiss on her cheek as she shared that it was a great opportunity to attend.

Sponsors/volunteers included members of App State’s Women’s Basketball Team, whose spokesperson shared, “We are more than basketball players,” describing their acts of community service on a regular basis, including hosting a camp each year for individuals with challenges. “We try to shine a light in their lives when we have the opportunity.”

Bringing their young sons, Elias and Elliott, to participate on the cheer team were Chris and Carrie Lusk. “We want to give our kids an appreciation for all people,” Carrie said. “God makes us all special and some of us are extra special — and this is the day to celebrate them.”

Tammy Nelson was all smiles as we caught up with her and Abigail Wright, hugging and comparing their “princess shoes.”

Nelson, who frequently volunteers in the community, had this to say: “Joy Prom is very special to my heart because of the enormous smiles, excitement and happiness it brings to the special needs community. Watching their faces light up and the gigantic hugs I receive is the best blessing!”

Having volunteered several years ago, prior to Covid, Nelson said she was probably as excited, or even more so, than some of the guests.

Furthermore, she added, “ I admire the journey some of the special needs community and their caregivers face in their daily lives. I hope to continue to participate and I encourage others to reach out to help with future events. Matthew 25:40 reminds me that should do for others because we are all equal. It’s what you leave behind that matters- not what’s behind your name or in a bank account. What you do for others is what matters.  On some days, the smallest thing you do in someone’s life is the biggest thing in their life.”

In summarizing this year’s Joy Prom, Anne Margaret Wright shares, on behalf of her husband and children, “We have been so touched over the years by the outpouring of love by the volunteers, sponsors, community and especially our church, Alliance Bible Fellowship. Joy Prom and the ABF Special Needs Ministry are very much a team effort and labor of love by so many who want to bless these very special families. We are privileged to have a front-row seat every day to God’s faithfulness and love to amazing people who are often marginalized by the world, but never by God!”

Sponsors for Joy Prom 2023 include the following:

ABLE Recreation, American Heritage Girls, ASNC (the ASU branch of Autism Society of North Carolina), ASU Women’s Basketball team, Chick fil’A, Courtyard by Marriott, Covenant Case Management, De la Cruz Farms, Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of West Jefferson, Freedom Farm Ministries, Gadabouts Catering, Hole Lotta Doughnuts, Jazzy J Entertainment, Lamar Advertising, Parent to Parent Support Network, The SPOT Clinic (therapy clinic), Stick Boy Bakery,

Village Florist and Wallace Propane.

In addition to hosting Joy Prom, ABF also has a year-round special needs ministry that offers frequent respite nights for families and caregivers. All ages and levels of ability are welcome. 

For more information, visit www.abfboone.com,  call 

(828) 264-8312 or visit Alliance Bible Fellowship on Facebook. 

The church is located at 1035 N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone.