When Jennifer Graves, director of the EDGE program, attended a wedding at Snider Barn, she instantly knew that she found the perfect place to realize a long-time dream of hers: a prom for high schoolers with special needs.
One of the local Methodist churches hosts a special needs prom for special needs students in Jackson-Madison county, but this is the first prom that will include students from Jackson-Madison, Gibson, Chester and Crockett county. Many special needs students would drive to Memphis to participate in Joy Prom.
The owners of Snider Barn sometimes donate the barn to Christian organizations. They agreed to let the EDGE program use the location on Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. for “A Country Night,” a spring prom for special needs high schoolers.
Graves asked Englewood Baptist Church if they would be willing to help with the event. Englewood has a program called “Special Buddies” that accommodates special needs children and adults.
“Many churches do not have to means to be able to outreach the special needs community,” said Leslie Van Ravenswaay, women’s ministry assistant at Englewood. “Mainly, our focus is to let families in these counties know that at Englewood and Union, we see those needs and we see how your children are a reflection of God.”
About 30 Union students have volunteered to help with various activities such as serving food, parking and security. This includes the EDGE students.
“One thing that I’m adamant about is that we will be givers and not just takers,” Graves said. “We want to give back to the community that’s given to us and Jackson has been very kind and this is a way for us to become more well-known in the community. We have the chance to share about our program.”
At the end of the night, each of the 40 to 60 students attending will be given a picture frame with a photo of them at their prom.
Ravenswaay hopes that this prom will make an impact on the high school students.
“I look at these EDGE students and I look at how they are going to have an impact on our world as Christian leaders and people see them as examples,” she said. “We’re taking our special needs students and grooming them and showing them, ‘Hey, these students are going on to college. They have a plan for their life after college.’”
It costs $5 to attend, and that money will go toward the special needs program at Englewood.
“We’re going to provide a good, safe, Christian, clean time for the community and then help another organization that helps those with special needs,” Graves said. “They’re giving back to the community that has helped them a lot, and they’re helping someone just because they can…Isn’t that how we’re supposed to model the love of Christ?”