Tifton, Ga., paves the way for memorable prom experience
By: David Ibata
Twenty-three special needs students at Tift County, Georgia, High School went to prom this year, thanks to an outpouring of community support for The Salvation Army Service Center in Tifton.
The gifts made it possible for the students to be appropriately attired for the Special Hearts Prom, April 28, said Kelley Bedore, service center director.
“This is something that’s close to my heart,” said Bedore, who has a 10-year-old son with special needs. “When I came to The Salvation Army as a new director three months ago, I met with our advisory board and they asked me my goals, and I said special needs services and outreach.”
Bedore contacted the high school and asked if The Salvation Army could outfit the young people for prom. “A lot of times they’re disadvantaged, with one-parent incomes. In the special needs community, it can really be rough.”
Tifton quickly responded. Betty Manaugh, owner of the Bridal & Gift Gallery, donated the prom dresses for the girls. The Salvation Army ensured the boys had dress pants, jackets, shirts and ties.
Walmart Neighborhood Marketplace store managers Darrien Dillard and Maranda Anderson contributed silk bouquets and boutonnieres. Walmart also provided volunteers and refreshments for a Service Center pre-prom event where students were fitted for their formal attire.
“It’s a great way to reach the community and do something these kids don’t typically get to do,” Bedore said. “This way, they’re among their peers and teachers, and they are comfortable and safe. They got to feel special, to take pictures and have snacks. It was like a fun field trip.”
“I felt this was something the students would enjoy, something different, and a good way to reach out to the community and show them that we’re here for everybody. We’ll do this every year.”
The next event this spring was the Tifton Special Olympics. The Salvation Army advisory board was to provide 550 snack cakes.
“We’ll be out there,” Bedore said, “helping and handing out food and being a part of it.”