by Sherrie Norris
Even better, everyone was a star at Saturday's Joy Prom in Boone, and each guest was shown love and treated with dignity and respect.
For the approximate 65 individuals attending the festive affair with their escorts, and assisted by 120-plus volunteers, it was like nothing most had ever before experienced.
It was deemed a great success, said Ronny Wright, who with his wife, Ann Margaret Wright, coordinated the unique event with the help of fellow church members and friends.
"The thing that we most enjoyed and will remember about Joy Prom were the smiles on the faces of those in attendance," he said. "There were some great moments, especially when the sweet couples were enjoying a slow dance together."
And, there were also moments that brought them to tears, said Ann Margaret -- "like when one of the mothers said that it was the first time that she had seen her teenaged child 'really smile.' Another mom said that it was the best day in her daughter's life, thus far."
The four-hour event, and the first of its kind in Boone, was hosted by Alliance Bible Fellowship of Boone and held in the church's family life center as a way to honor teens and adults with developmental or physical disabilities.
The action began at 1:30 p.m. as the volunteer cheer team lined both sides of the red carpet and Sen. Dan Soucek, serving as emcee, began to announce the arrival of the guests.
Each guest was treated like royalty from his or her entrance, to receiving a tiara or boutonniere, walking the red carpet, to being ushered to the professional photograph booth, and then on to a pamper station of choice --for shoe shining, make-up, manicures and hair touch-ups.
The fun was nonstop until the last guest departed around 5:30 p.m.
Live, soothing music was provided by local band, Battle Victorious, and enjoyed throughout the pampering and rest areas; recorded music reverberated later in the afternoon for dancing.
Beautifully decorated tables offered healthy snacks and drinks, and a "sensory room" with soft lighting and comfortable furniture provided a respite for those who tired easily and needed a break from the stimulating party atmosphere.
Wright said it was an honor for his church, for him, his wife and their team of volunteers to "serve as the hands and feet of Christ on this special and joyful day."
Wright said it the belief of ABF that every person is made in the image of God and that each life should be valued and celebrated.
"Joy Prom was our church's way of spotlighting a community of people who are often overlooked in our society," he said. "As parents of three beautiful children with Down Syndrome, we understand the challenges and the unique blessings of loving someone with special needs. We hope that Joy Prom was a day that truly blessed these very special individuals throughout the High Country and beyond."
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 bringing it to our attention," Wright said. "She was an intern here at our church last year 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."
The success of the evening, Wright said, was due in great part to not only the volunteers who gave of their time and talent, but also to several individuals and businesses that made monetary and in-kind donations. "We are grateful for everyone who had a part in our Joy Prom. We can't wait to do it again next year," he said.
Known as a church that shows 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.
Alliance Bible Fellowship is located at 1035 N.C. 105 Bypass in Boone.
For more information, call (828) 264-8312 or visit http://www.abfboone.com.