Story by Ammie Bryant
Prom is a right of passage for American youths. But not everyone gets to take that right of passage. Some people have never been to prom, but now thanks to United Way of Payne County and partnering agencies, some of those individuals who have always wanted to go, will have the opportunity to put on their dancing shoes for a very special night.
It began because Executive Director Sheri Carter’s son told her about an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation called “A Night to Shine,” a prom for adults with special needs. Carter wondered if Stillwater had anything like it. She did a little research and discovered that the nearest events like it are held in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas. She reached out to the folks at MPower and local Group Homes to see if there is a local need for this type of event–would locals attend? The answer was “yes.”
So Carter and her team, including Marketing Director Ivy Hill, began planning the “Spring Gala: A prom for people with special needs.”
“This event is a community effort and several organizations are coming together to make this a wonderful night for those with special needs in our community,” said Carter. Agencies and organizations include the United Way of Payne County, Stillwater Community Center, and City of Stillwater Park and Recreation. The planning team has also consulted with leadership at area Group Homes, MPower, and Stacy Delano, the Adult Services Librarian who coordinates RoundUP Stillwater.
RoundUP Stillwater works with organizations in town that serve adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities with a goal to coordinate efforts in providing learning and social programming. RoundUP has a variety of activities throughout the year and some of these have included dances. “We were very eager to expand our Spring dance to make it much more meaningful to the participants, so we were excited to have Sheri and Ivy offer to lead the way,” said Delano.
The Stillwater Community Center will host the March 3 event where there will be dancing with music provided by a professional DJ, refreshments, and additional activity stations for crafts and games. There will also be carriage rides, a dance contest and door prizes.
Carter and Hill are also working with local resale shops to help those in need acquire formal wear. “We don’t want the lack of something to wear to keep anyone from attending,” said Carter.
The event is for ages 18 and up and is free to attend. Formal wear is encouraged and anyone who needs help with formal attire should contact Ivy Hill at 405-377-2161, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by 109 E. 9th Ave.
“We’re doing this for all of those residents who didn’t have the opportunity to go to prom, and if they did this is a great chance for them to have a fun night with their friends,” said Carter. “Our goal is that everyone leaves feeling like they’re special and that our community loves them.”
Sponsors for the event include Cimarron Medical Services, Stillwater Medical Center, Interfraternity Council, First Methodist Church Faith Class, Friends of the Faith Class, and Friends of the Stillwater Public Library.