This party might be even more fun for the organizers than the honored revelers.
Beach Church, on George Bishop Parkway, just west of Myrtle Beach, will put on its third annual “Joy Prom,” from 5-8:30 p.m. Saturday for individuals with special needs to have a night out with a red carpet arrival, dinner and dance.
Dave Moen, the prom coordinator from the start, said this event — with assistance from Angela Jordan, Beach Church children’s minister, and throngs of volunteers from the community, groups and businesses — has “doubled in size” from each previous year. About 70 guests were registered as of Nov. 3, with about 100 to 125 family members and friends accompanying them, said Moen, who also leads the church’s special needs ministry.
Question | What got this prom going into such a fast-growing and annual tradition embraced by the community?
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Answer | Pastor Todd Elliott brought the idea to me; he had been at a church that had done a special needs prom before. We’ve run with this ever since. This is a prom that, in every sense of the word, goes all out. The decision was made from the first prom, that we wouldn’t cut any corners; we wouldn’t hold back. We went after top shelf, from day one.
Q. | How was this time of year chosen? To stay ahead of the rush of the Christmas season?
A. | This is a better time, and there is an opportunity because it’s not in the standard, spring prom season. When we’re approaching Christmastime, we have a whole year to build to that day, and at this time of year, we’re at our best, so we’ve dovetailed the Joy Prom with that, and the whole campus is really fresh.
We chose this time because it was offseason from proms, and a strong season for us. We have experimented with it on both sides of Thanksgiving, though.
Q. | What other special elements remain tried and true in this endeavor?
A. | The other place we stand firm on is this Joy Prom cannot cost these families a dime because these families take a hit already with medical treatments, therapy and being excluded from things every day. We’re the ones somehow getting this gift; we’re the ones at ground zero. We get to see the story play out each year. The little pockets of stories throughout this are amazing. The story within the story: Those are the remarkable ones.
Q. | How do the parts of this day all flow together?
A. | Every part of the momentum is building toward something else. We start the day at about 3:30 p.m., and the guests have their hair and makeup done. A lot of high-profile hairdressers donate their time, and there’s a ton of volunteers to help everybody get dressed and make adaptations here and there. Once they’re all dressed and ready, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament sends a guy every year for portraits, and the guests get behind the Conway High School Tigers Marching Band, which marches them in, and they’ll do a 20-minute show.
Q. | What type of music and other elements add signatures to the scene?
A. | “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction: That’s kind of like our theme song; we used it in the first Joy Prom and have used it ever since. We also have a 100-foot-long red carpet; it’ll be packed with people.
The fun doesn’t stop there. We have a full, sit-down, catered, served dinner by a full-scale wait staff, then once dinner’s over, we have the dance and a million photo opportunities.
Q. | How many volunteers each add their own special touch?
A. | Our pool of volunteers is about 200; it’s pretty remarkable. It takes that many people to pull this off. Last year, we lost our caterer two weeks before the prom. We reached out into the community, and we said, “We have a problem, and this is what we want to do. Can you help us?” I don’t think we got a single “No.”
It was great to be able to stand back and watch the whole event fall into place. Knowing how many people are really behind this is pretty humbling. All we did was ask, and they said, “Yes.”
Q. | With so many helpers — too many to name — what other vital parts might go too easily overlooked?
A. | We also have medical professionals on site, just in case — doctors and nurses who have volunteered their time. They give us this huge sense of relief, with our knowing they are there. Our biggest fear with this overall is that we’ll miss somebody; you never know who’s going to be there next year. We don’t like to think about that, but there’s always that reality, so we hit this as hard as we can. Another remarkable thing is we have a lot of youth volunteers to basically keep the dancing crowd together. We’re getting a good look at the youth in this community and how wonderful they are.
We are so deeply indebted to the community. We also have a cleanup team, because we have to have the church ready for the next morning. We’ve seen it cleaned up and back to normal in 20 minutes.