When Team Lexi holds events, it is guaranteed to be filled with magic. This one will involve a yellow brick road, and a whole lot of dancing.
Team Lexi’s Special Community Prom will be held on Saturday, March 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Sweetwater, located at 501 Church Street. The theme of this year’s prom is “The Wizard of Oz” in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the classic film.
“Raising a child with a disability, all we ever want is acceptance,” said Team Lexi’s Carla Brannon, whose son has Down Syndrome. “This is an event where they don’t have to feel out of place or like they’re the least popular kid there. This is a night where they can go to a prom and be with all their friends. These are the moments we want them to remember.”
Brannon said the idea for a special needs prom came from her son Daniel Raines’ teachers several years ago.
“Daniel won prom king his senior year at Sequoyah High School and they wanted to see about doing something like that for the entire special needs community,” she said. “Team Lexi got on board and we made it happen. It was a night all about them, no judgement. Just them being themselves. To see them with these beaming smiles and having such a good time, it was very special.”
“The year Daniel graduated high school, that group of kids just made him feel so included and special. They saw no difference in him and just loved on him. That’s what we want for all people in our special needs community,” added Stacey Dockery with Team Lexi.
This is the fifth year that Team Lexi has hosted the Special Community Prom.
“We’ve gotten to know these amazing individuals and their families as many of them have attended every year,” said Dockery. “They just grow into your hearts. For us at Team Lexi, this is one of the funnest things we get to do. We encourage anyone in our special needs community to get tickets and plan to attend. Heck, bring two dates if you want! We had a little boy show up one time with two dates—one on each arm. It was precious. We just love them all.”
The prom is open to all members of the special needs community (not just residents of Monroe County) and it is free for attendees and their dates. All ages are welcome.
“Everyone who attends will need a ticket to enter,” said Dockery. “They can sign up and pick up their tickets at the Monroe County Buzz.”
Parents, family members or community members are also welcome to attend. Additional tickets (for non-attendees and dates) can be purchased for $5 at the Buzz in Madisonville.
“As a special needs parent, I understand that there’s always a sense of anxiety when you aren’t there,” said Brannon. “No one knows my kid like I know them. We all have that sense of protection with them and I’m not sure that ever goes away, which is why we wanted to leave it open for others to attend.”
There will be a taco bar and refreshments, and a live DJ—Scott from Knox Vegas.
“He’s DJ’ed the event for us every year and it is always loads of fun,” said Brannon. “The prom attendees literally dance from the first song to the last song. Daniel is usually soaking in sweat when I finally pull him off the dance floor. These kids don’t care; they party down.”
The Sweetwater Institute of Cosmetology is once again offering free makeup, hair, and nails for prom attendees on the day of the event. If interested, contact them at 423-351-0071 to schedule your appointment.
If anyone is interested in helping sponsor the event, monetary donations are being accepted.
“We are always looking for sponsors who want to help us in our mission,” said Dockery. “Donations from businesses and the community are what help us keep the prom free for attendees, and how we are able to help so many when they need us. We work solely on donations and money out of our own pockets.”
Team Lexi is also looking for volunteers for the Special Community Prom.
“There will be plenty to do, even if someone just wants to come and dance with some of the prom goers and help them have a good time,” said Dockery. “Students who volunteer will get community service hours for helping.”
Volunteers are asked to either wear “The Wizard of Oz” costumes or black pants and a white shirt. To sign up to volunteer at the prom or for more information, contact Team Lexi’s Misty Stamey at 423-836-2696, Dockery at 423-836-3943, or Brannon at 423-404-5423.
Brannon said Team Lexi is honored to bring this to Monroe County.
“Team Lexi has been going for 14 years now and this event is really special to us,” she said. “When we do princess or super hero dinners, the focus is on one child. We love those events too, but to see so many people have such a good time at this event, it’s just amazing. There’s really nothing like this in this area. It has opened up a huge opportunity for our special needs community. We’re glad to be able to do this and sprinkle a little bit of magic on so many who might otherwise not get to experience this.”