The Memphis Joy Prom was the brain child of Ashley Parks and Ginna Rauls. The two conceived of the idea nearly a year ago as they sat in a local Starbucks in Memphis, Tenn.
Parks is no stranger to those with special needs. She has been in industry for more than 20 years. She currently serves as the director of the Christ United Methodist Church’s special needs ministry. Rauls has been involved with the special needs community for some time. As they sipped their coffee, the two women came up with the idea to host a prom fore people aged 16 and up with special needs. Their little shindig would ultimately include 110 guests.
The prom, which was held on April 25, was sponsored by several local churches. A couple in their 60s with disabilities attended the event, having never gone to their own high school prom. Parks said that most people age out of certain things like proms. She and Rauls decided to open the event up to people who were past the normal age of proms and may not have been able to attend proms in their youth.
It took the efforts of 350 volunteers and donations from the community to pull it off. Everyone attending was treated to every aspect of a traditional prom. Guests were delivered to the venue in limousines. They stepped out of the limos and walked down a red carpet accompanied by their volunteer hosts. Rick Trotter, the team announcer for the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team was there to greet them.
The volunteer hosts were given cards with allergy information for their prom date along with a list of things the individual wanted to experience that night. Those who wanted it were able to have their nails done, their shoes shined and their makeup done. An ice sculpture adorned the room and a candy bar stocked with treats was open to everyone.
Parks and Rauls’ goal was to make the guests feel special, to give them their night. The event was such a success, planning is already underway for next year’s Joy Prom.