By Sherrie Norris
If there’s ever a time in one’s life to feel special, it should be on prom night (or day), and nowhere does that happen any better than at Joy Prom in the High Country.
Now in its fifth year, Joy Prom is scheduled for April 14, from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. at Alliance Bible Fellowship in Boone.
It promises to be a time to remember for everyone involved, not only for the participants decked out in festive attire, but also for the many volunteers who help to make it such a grand event.
A unique party for a very special population, Joy Prom is the High Country equivalent to a Hollywood event — complete with glamour and glitter, valet parking, the red carpet, flowing gowns, food, flowers, music, dancing, flashing cameras — and more.
Even better, the special guests — teens and adults with developmental or physical disabilities — are made to feel like shining stars, treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
This year’s prom theme is “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”
“King Arthur chose a round table so each knight was considered important and equal – everyone had a place at the table,” explained Ann Margaret Wright, who along with her husband, Ronny, has coordinated the local Joy Prom from the start. “That is exactly what we hope for our loved ones – that they know they are loved by God and by all of us, and that they are important to our community.”
The annual event has been successful from the beginning, and allows participants an opportunity they might not otherwise experience.
From the 65 individuals who attended the festive inaugural affair with their escorts in 2014, assisted by 120-plus volunteers, Joy Prom has grown to include around 200 participants, plus their family members or chaperones, and about 350 volunteers.
What the Wrights enjoy most and remember from year to year, they said, are the smiles on the faces of the guests, who are treated like royalty from the time they enter the family life center of the church where Joy Prom is held.
Each female receives a tiara, and each male a boutonniere. They are led down the red carpet by their escorts and are cheered on my their fans who line the carpeted walkway. They are then ushered to the professional photograph booth, and on to a pamper station of choice —for shoe shining, make-up, manicures and hair touch-ups.
Dance music, beautifully decorated tables with healthy food and drinks complete the party atmosphere.
The fun will be nonstop until the party ends at 4:30 p.m.
Food will be catered by Laura Micklon and Bill Heddrick this year. “Laura did a lovely joy of catering the Caregivers Celebration Dinner in October, so we know we’re in very good hands,” said Ann Margaret Wright.
A “sensory room” will once again provide soft lighting and comfortable furniture as a respite area for those who tire easily and need a break from the stimulation.
For the Wrights, it is an honor to join their church and an ever-growing group of faithful volunteers for this event.
“It is the highlight of our year! We feel so blessed to be a small part of this very special day. We get a front row seat to see what our amazing God will do!”
It also puts into action the church’s belief, they added, “That every person is made in the image of God and that each life should be valued and celebrated.”
“Joy Prom is our church’s way of spotlighting a community of people who are often overlooked in our society,” said Ronnie Wright. “As parents of five beautiful children, three of which have Down Syndrome, we understand the challenges and the unique blessings of loving someone with special needs. We hope that Joy Prom is a day that truly blesses these very special individuals throughout the High Country and beyond.”
Alliance Bible Fellowship is the only official sponsor, but several “wonderful companies,” according to the Wrights, provide products, services or discounts.
And about the volunteers? “The volunteers are amazing! In addition to all the individuals who help with the preparations and volunteer that day, there have been many groups who volunteer their time. Different community groups are decorating all the rooms, except the gym, helping with the dress fitting, and helping get the word out to the community. Several groups from ASU are involved, including a couple of their sports teams. We have been so blessed by the outpouring of love from the community for these very special guests.”
The idea for the event, the Wrights said, was inspired by Carmel Baptist Church near Charlotte, which has hosted similar occasions for the past several years. Joy Proms have become popular events across the country in the recent past.
“We have to thank Candace Parker for first bringing it to our attention,” Wright said. “She was an intern here at our church a few years ago and helped our congregation become more sensitive to special needs. She discussed it with our youth and family pastor, Scott Burns, and it went from there.”
Further inspiration and confirmation to host the prom, said the Wrights, came from Luke 14: 13- 14, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
“We are grateful for everyone who has had a part in our Joy Prom event, and we can’t wait to do it again this year,” he said. “It is our hope to be a blessing to the special needs community and their families.”
Known as a church that expresses God’s love in many ways, 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.
There is no cost to attend Joy Prom, Wright said, stressing that it is open to anyone with special needs in their teens and above who live in the High Country and surrounding communities.
Guests will need to have a parent or caregiver with them during the Joy Prom who is able to assist with their unique needs, and need to register in advance.
To register as a guest or volunteer for Joy Prom or the dress fitting day, follow the links:
Volunteers for the Dress Fitting: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/904084da5aa229-joyprom9
Volunteers for Joy Prom: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/904084da5aa22Email
Alliance Bible Fellowship is located at 1035 N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone.
For more information, call (828) 264-8312 or visit www.abfboone.com.
Donations needed for Dress Fitting Party April 6
There will be a dress fitting – the “party before the party, on April 6, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., at Alliance Bible Fellowship at which time Joy Prom guests can choose a free dress or suit, and have alterations made on the spot. There will also be free haircuts available on that day, as well as the opportunity to make a craft that will be on display during Joy Prom.
Donations of party dresses for the ladies and suits for the men – and all the accessories — are needed and appreciated. They can be dropped off at the ABF office during business hours by April 6.