JoyProm spotlight makes Concord event a night to remember
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Friday, Mar. 21, 2014

JoyProm spotlight makes Concord event a night to remember

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    MARTY PRICE - MARTY PRICE
    Fifteen-year-old attendee Austin Brown, left, dances with volunteer Kelsie Embler during JoyProm 2014. Many local restaurants donated food for the Mexican-fiesta-themed event. There was a buffet dinner provided for the attendees, their caregivers and families, and the volunteers.
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    Volunteer Diana Bibiano, right, leads attendee Christopher Whitley, center, and his date, Lashary Gaddis, from the red carpet to the buffet line. Whitley asked his childhood friend to be his date for the March 15 prom.
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    Sherry Peele, co-founder of the nonprofit that organizes JoyProm, kisses 15-year-old attendee Alexus Herron before Herron makes her red carpet walk. Peele announced each participant’s name over a loudspeaker upon arrival at the event.
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    Sharon Houck, right, of Houck Photography in Charlotte, takes a formal prom photo of attendees Sarah Hughes, left, and Matthew Wheeler. The couple met at the prom, became friends and wanted their picture taken together.
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    The crowd cheers as Kristian Robinson, who has cerebral palsy, is escorted by her dad, Rick Robinson, down the red carpet. This year’s prom was March 15at Concord First Assembly’s 3sixty5 building.

The dance event of the year for students and adults with disabilities is a big deal.

For some, picking their clothes and getting dressed up is the best part of JoyProm; for others, it is the red carpet entrance or the dancing that made the day special.

This year’s prom was March 15at Concord First Assembly’s 3sixty5 building, 280 Concord Parkway North.

The large group of volunteers made sure everyone felt special by cheering each attendee on the red carpet, guiding those who needed help and dancing with party-goers.

The first JoyProm was held in 2011, which led to Deidra Cook and Sherry Peele co-founding the nonprofit organization Joyful Hearts LLC in 2013. Joyful Hearts organizes JoyProm and other events.

The prom began with a limousine ride to the red carpet. Upon arrival, Sherry Peele announced each name over a loudspeaker, with background music blaring, before attendees walked the red carpet to the cheers of a large crowd of volunteers blowing bubbles and waving.

Twenty-one-year-old Chelsey Scott attended the JoyProm in 2013 and asked her boyfriend, 23-year-old Jacob Freeman, to come to the prom with her this year. Freeman, who had never been at the event before, was nervous at first. But after walking the red carpet, he said, “It feels like I’m somebody famous in Hollywood.”

Nineteen-year-old Rachel Hibbets, who is in a wheelchair due to spina bifida, has attended all four years and said her favorite part of the event is dressing up. Wearing a pink rose in her hair to match her pink, sequined gown, she completed her ensemble with black shoes that sported multicolored sequins.

Rachel’s mother, Linda Hibbets, said, “I’ll be lucky if she will let me out when they close tonight. She counts down the days (until the event) for the entire year. This is the highlight of her year.”

Many local restaurants donated food for the Mexican-fiesta-themed event. There was a buffet dinner provided for the attendees, their caregivers and families, and the volunteers sponsored by La Unica of Harrisburg, Don Pedro of Charlotte, Mexicasa of Harrisburg and Zapatas Restaurant in University City.

A couple of the local high schools also helped at the event.

Hickory Ridge High School culinary students, under the direction of chef Felicia Pritchett, prepared the donated fruits and vegetables to create beautifully arranged trays on the buffet line. Central Cabarrus High School Junior ROTC Cadets, led by Lt. Col. Nelson English, served as red carpet escorts.

There were also formal prom portraits offered by Balance Photography and Houck Photography, as well as a photo booth with fun hats and costumes for those who wanted less formal photos. After eating and dancing the night away, attendees were given prints of the photos to remember their special night.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at martyprice53@gmail.com.

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