Prom is a special event for many high school students, but for the 200 individuals who will be attending the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults' 3rd annual Special Needs Prom, it is close to magical.
The magic will start with the theme, "Flying to Neverland," but it doesn't end there. Thanks to community sponsors, the prom attendees will be outfitted in evening wear, have their hair and make-up done by professional stylists, before being treated to a sit-down dinner. Then the real fun begins — dancing through the night.
"Many individuals with disabilities are unable to attend their prom as they are often are held out of town, have excessive costs, inadequate access, and for many feel out of place," stated the Society's Executive Director, Marci Boucher. "This event was created so everyone can enjoy the evening without judgment, teasing, or feeling self-conscious. It's their day."
Area high school students are encouraged to volunteer as "dates," decorate, and help with registration, at the May 9 prom being held at the Del Rio Country Club.
"This is a night participants wait with eager anticipation for 365 days," said Lynn Quijada-Vaughan, program director for the Society. "It's exciting to see the girls in their fancy dresses and the fellows all spiffed up. Teens and young adults, regardless of their abilities, have an amazing evening."
This is only the third year the Society has held a special needs prom. The inaugural event was made possible by The Valley Apprentice, a contest held in 2011 in the style of its TV show namesake that had contestants work with local charities to develop a plan to help their cause and put it into practice.
"We weren't sure how it was going to go the first year...but the second the music came on they started dancing and everyone had such a good time," said Boucher.
In fact, Boucher said many high school volunteers came up to her after last year's event to say it was more fun than their own prom, where everyone just spends the evening on their cellphones.