By Sherrie Norris
Prom night is always a time to remember, but few events capture the magic like that of Joy Prom, now in its sixth year in the High Country.
Scheduled for Saturday, April 13 from 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Alliance Bible Fellowship in Boone, Joy Prom is a unique party for a very special population. It is equivalent, on a local level, to a Hollywood event — complete with glamour and glitter, valet parking, the red carpet, flowing gowns, food, flowers, music, dancing, flashing cameras — and more.
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, with a large group of volunteers coming along beside them to make sure it truly is a memorable, stress-free occasion.
This year’s prom, with the theme “Made in God’s image; beautiful in His sight,” conveys an important message, said Ronny Wright, who with his wife, Ann Margaret, has coordinated the local Joy Prom from the beginning.
“It is a message that our guests don’t hear often enough,” the Wrights agree. “We want them to know that they are loved by and cared for by God and our church body, and that they are valued members of our community.”
Joy Prom has been a huge success from the start, and allows participants an opportunity they might not otherwise experience.
It began in Boone in 2014 with 65 special guests and their escorts, in addition to 120-plus volunteers. Through the years, attendance grew to its pinnacle in 2017 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.
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,” they said. “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 official sponsor, but as the Wrights point out, “We couldn’t do it without the generosity of other organizations and businesses that provide products, services or discounts.”
And about the volunteers? The volunteers are amazing, the Wrights described. Individuals and various church and community groups, alike, give of their time and talents not only on that date, but also in days leading up to the big event, whether through setting up, decorating, helping with the apparel fitting, or simply helping spread the word into the community. Several groups from ASU are involved every year, including a couple of their sports teams.
The Wrights stressed how this outreach has been incredibly blessed by the outpouring of love from the community.
How it all started
Joy Proms have become popular events across the country in the recent past, a concept locally inspired by Carmel Baptist Church near Charlotte, which has hosted similar occasions for the past several years.
The Wrights give credit to Candace Parker for first bringing it to their attention.
“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.”
To Attend or Volunteer
There is no cost to attend Joy Prom, the Wrights 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.
The Loaves and Fishes Special Needs Ministry at ABF is the primary host group for the prom, and as a year-round ministry, also offers frequent respite nights for families and caregivers. All ages and levels of ability are welcome. (See abf special needs page on FB.)
To register as a guest or volunteer for Joy Prom or the dress fitting day, follow the links:https://www.signupgenius.com/go/904084da5aa229-joyprom11
Alliance Bible Fellowship is located at 1035 N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone.
Donations Needed for Dress Fitting Party, April 5
There will be a dress fitting – the “party before the party, on Friday April 5, from 3 – 7 p.m., at Alliance Bible Fellowship, at which time Joy Prom guests can choose a free outfit and have simple alterations made on the spot. They will also have an opportunity to make a craft to be displayed during Joy Prom.
Donations of gently used party dresses for the ladies and suits for the men – and all the accessories — are needed and appreciated. Large sizes are particularly appreciated.
The items may be dropped off at the church office by March 30.
Volunteers are also needed for this pre-party event.