By Jennifer Dyer
If you were invited to a special needs prom, what would you expect to see? Quiet kids, plain snacks, maybe some sedate music, perhaps parents talking?
Then you haven’t seen the special needs prom held in my community.
Nine years ago, a mom decided she wanted to give her son a prom experience, but knew the school prom would be too overwhelming. She put together some ideas and invited her son’s special Olympics team mates.
Since then, the prom has grown to include all the kids with special needs in our community over age 13. Even after the kids graduate, they’re still invited.
The week before the event, a team of volunteers converge on the church’s gym and transform it into a wonderland. This year it was a candy landscape of 3-foot tall gingerbread men, frosted gingerbread houses, giant lollipops, basketball-sized candies, and more.
Add onto that, tables laden with treats, many of them made with special dietary needs in mind. A DJ leads everyone to laugh, hug, dance, cheer, and dance some more.
My favorite moment is when the attendees line up outside the main doors and are introduced like royalty. When they enter the room, dear friends yell, cheer, and greet each other with huge hugs. The crowd of people, those who would be called special and everyone else, mingle together in one sweet group.
Although I was not able to attend this year, Rachel went with hubby. I don’t think she stopped moving and squealing.
For months, the community here talks about last year’s prom. When I see some of the people who attend the prom at the store, they stop and hug me, maybe mention something from the last event. The other half of the year, people look forward to next year’s prom. What will the decorations look like? What will they wear?
And it all started with a mom’s desire to make something special for her son. Other talented moms and volunteers have joined her along the way.
Events like this happen with scores of people in the background, but it started with a small spark of an idea, a mom’s heart to do something special.
I hope, in the years to come, other moms will start these kinds of events in their communities and that churches will get behind them, offering space, time, volunteers, and prayer. That people will gather to enjoy a special night with a truly special group of people.