November 27, 2020

Second grader enjoys red carpet experience at Joy Prom

Kaylee Holcomb (L) and Tucker Mitchell (R) recently attended the 4th annual 'Joy Prom' in Bowdon (Photo: Tina Holcomb)

Kaylee Holcomb (L) and Tucker Mitchell (R) recently attended the 4th annual ‘Joy Prom’ in Bowdon (Photo: Tina Holcomb)

(Bowdon, GA) — One lucky Heard Elementary School special needs student recently enjoyed a very special night at the Joy Prom held at Copeland Hall in Bowdon last Saturday night.

Joy Prom is an annual prom that invites anyone with special needs to participate, regardless of age and location. It is a free event and a free makeover is offered for the participants. There are also donated prom dresses and suits for the participants.

The event came about a few years ago after a parent from the Carroll County area asked Ally Turpen of ‘Pin It Gifts and Events’ in Bowdon to do a mock prom for her special needs daughter who could not attend her own prom because she was not able to bring her special needs date to high school prom because he exceeded the age limit.

Turpen said that the mock prom turned out to be very successful bringing in several participants and has grown ever since into the annual Joy Prom.

The only Heard County area participant at the event was a 9-year-old HES second grader, Ms. Kaylee Holcomb.

Kaylee was born with Down’s Syndrome or Down syndrome (DS), also known as trisomy 21, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21.

It is the most common chromosome abnormality in humans, and the CDC estimates that about one of every 691 babies born in the United States each year is born with Down syndrome.

Despite her condition, Kaylee is one of the most active kids in the county and participates in many activities including Special Olympics and cheerleading — she has cheered for the youth football teams for several years at the Heard County Recreation Department.

Kaylee had a blast at her first Joy Prom and according to her mom would really like to participate again next year.

“Everybody that knows Kaylee knows how much she loves music and loves dancing so this was right up her alley,” said Tina Holcomb after the dance. “My sister-in-law did her hair and make-up and Kaylee just loved the whole experience. She just had a blast!”

Around 200 people attended the Joy Prom including the special needs participants and numerous volunteers and chaperones. Kaylee had a special buddy Eli that watched out for her every need during the night and she even had a special “date” for the dance, her little friend Tucker Mitchell.

Tucker’s mom Nicole and Tina co-founded and manage a local group called Down Syndrome West Georgia that sponsors a Buddy Walk and other charity events throughout the year.

Tina Holcomb is thankful for Ally and all those that put in the time and effort to create such a unique experience that Kaylee and other special needs kids and adults might otherwise never get to experience.

“I just think it’s such a wonderful idea and everyone enjoyed it so much,” says Holcomb. “It’s amazing that the Joy Prom includes all ages and lets these kids (and adults) have an experience like that. These kids really are no different than any other kids and so often they aren’t encouraged to do stuff like other kids. This was just a great night all around from the music and dancing to the refreshments — it’s just something Kaylee will never forget.”

Joy Prom is able to exist due to donations by the Carroll County community and local shop owners. Dresses that have been donated from the previous years are kept and reused.

The Squire Shop has donated suits and ties and local salons volunteer to do hair and makeup for participants. Southwire contributed this year by providing the food for the night. Just in Time DJ has volunteered for two years to play at the prom.

Destiny Radcliff dances with her boyfriend of four years Derek Devall at this year's Joy Prom (Photo: Melanie Boyd/Times-Georgian)

Destiny Radcliff dances with her boyfriend of four years Derek Devall at this year’s Joy Prom (Photo: Melanie Boyd/Times-Georgian)

“This experience is not just for the participants but also the parents, the family and friends as well because everyone gets to enjoy the entire night and the families can watch their children dance and have fun,” Turpen told the Times-Georgian recently.

“And it also puts parents at ease of mind to know that their child is with a buddy. Parents are able to enjoy themselves because they don’t have to worry about wondering where their child is or who’s watching them.”

Because all proceeds go right back into Joy Prom, Turpen is working on a 501c3 for the upcoming year. She is working with an accountant to help make that happen because by becoming an official non-profit, donors will be helped some just by giving.

“We do not limit the prom to just people in our area,” said Turpen. “We welcome all communities and all ages to join. Last year we had a 6-month-old baby and the crowned king and queen were in their late 60’s. This is the best night of the entire year and we really have to thank the community for making this happen.”

(The Times-Georgian contributed to this article)

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