by Jamie Gilbert, Maddie Mason, Mendy Harris

Music pumps and cameras flash as guests stroll down the red carpet into JOY prom.  Friday April 11, Gateway Baptist church held their annual JOY prom with over 250 guests attending.

“JOY prom is a prom that’s mainly for kids with disabilities and special needs because a lot of the time they will not be able to go to a prom at their own school or if they even go to school,” junior Taylor Holladay said.  “Gateway Baptist church likes to host this prom for these kids so that they can have this experience.”

With JOY prom only happening once a year, the guests anticipate and count down till the day.

“The purpose of the prom is to share the love of Christ with our participants that aren’t so loved out in the world,” chairman of JOY prom committee Shelley Sims said. “It’s something that makes them feel special once a year and we’re just so happy to do it.”

Without help from local businesses and people willing to donate their time, the prom wouldn’t be possible. Local businesses donate money and food.  DJs also donate their time.  The preparation for the prom starts in January and ends with the prom being in April.  From being paparazzi along the sides of the red carpet to dressing up like a character to take pictures, there was a job for everyone and anyone.

“I was apart of the paparazzi and also an escort.  So part of the night I was clapping and cheering them on while they walked down the red carpet and escorted them in.  Then the rest of the night I just danced,” junior Aidan Fallaw said.

There was also other jobs such as doing hair for male and female guests and doing make-up for female guests.

“I participated in JOY Prom by being a greeter. So I directed students to where they’re suppose to go before they went to the red carpet and made sure that they were fixed and ready.  And that their hair and make-up were perfect and that they were ready to dance,” history teacher Kelly Ragan said.

Not only did JOY prom make a difference for the guests attending, but it also had an effect on the volunteers as well.

“Volunteering has affected me just because I been able to see students from Dutch Fork and students that I known from coaching in the past in a different light seeing them have so much fun and being able to experience something that they may not have ever experienced before,” Ragan said.

Taylor agrees as it inspires her to be more open like people with disabilities.

“It’s made me more self aware because I get to see these kids and they don’t care about what they look like.  They don’t care about how they act.  They just go out there and dance and have fun,” Taylor said. “It makes me aware that people without disabilities are so self-conscious and we don’t know how to let loose and have fun. They just accept people for who they are.  So just being around these kids helps me to understand that we should be more like them.”

Both volunteers and guests benefit from JOY prom.

“Gateway [Baptist Church]  doesn’t expect anything from this but the people at gateway are extraordinary. They truly get it.  They get what it means to be a Christian and I think that’s important. Today people are so selfish and they don’t know how to love people for who they are and I think that we do, and the people who volunteer do, and it affects us.  We get more out of it than the people who come and I’m so glad to be a part of it,” Sims said.

Volunteering is a two-way street affecting both the person helping and the person receiving help.

“Volunteering has definitely made me a better person and I think that the most important thing in life is to serve other people.  So volunteering is what it’s all about.  Whether it be at school or be outside of school, volunteering is something everyone needs to become apart of,” Ragan said.

Even though JOY prom is only a few hours once a year, it makes a difference in everyone’s life.

“[The JOY prom] has enlightened me to the fact that I didn’t realize how people can be treated. They’ve been asked to leave their churches sometimes when there hasn’t been a place for them,” Sims said, “I didn’t realize that the world has treated them like that, and I think it has opened my eyes to see that everybody deserves to be loved.”