Buoyant bubbles drifted through the air as guests — clad in tuxedos and formal dresses— arrived, walking down a red carpet. The scene is familiar to anyone who’s attended a prom, but on April 25, the remarkable night was hosted not for a high school but for Memphis residents with disabilities.
The Joy Prom, sponsored by a group of local churches, was cooked up by Ashley Parks and Ginna Rauls, both active members in the Memphis special needs community, according to Good Morning America. The two wanted to give people with disabilities a chance to experience a night of primping, pampering and dancing.
They decided to call the evening the Joy Prom because “we decided we like ‘joy’ because that’s what we hope to bring,” Parks told the Huffington Post.
Parks, the special needs ministry director for Christ United Methodist Church, enlisted the help of 350 volunteers to collect donations that would be used to create the quintessential prom experience. Back in March, the duo hosted a prom dress donation drive, and a church member offered to foot the bill for tuxedo rentals from Men’s Warehouse. The community pooled together and even bought an ice sculpture and confectionary bar for the evening.
Guests were greeted on the red carpet by Memphis Grizzlies basketball team announcer Rick Trotter, who recognized them as they arrived by limo. Each host was given a card with their date’s allergies and a list of everything he or she wanted to experience that night.
Female guests could have their nails painted or makeup done while men were able to have their shoes polished. The crowd glittered with tiaras while guests danced the night away. “We didn’t miss anything,” Parks said.
But perhaps what made this prom more special than any other is the age range of its guests. Teenagers as young at 16 mingled alongside a couple in their 60s, giving everyone a chance to experience a night to remember.
“At a certain point people phase out of things but we said, you know what, lets open this up for people over the age of 22 and think of those who may not have experienced an event like this before,” Parks said.
The night was so successful, planning for next year’s prom is already underway. We’re guessing that the 2015 prom will be just as memorable.