From the moment people stepped on the red carpet until the last song was played, joy spread across the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on Thursday night with UNC’s third annual Joy Prom.
This year’s Joy Prom was organized by Pi Kappa Phi, Best Buddies and the Class of 2017 in hope of creating a night for people with disabilities to feel more loved and accepted.
Caitlin Schwagerl, the president of UNC’s chapter of Best Buddies, said all the guests would be paired with a UNC student for the duration of the night.
“Best Buddies has over 100 friendship pairs of people with intellectual disabilities and UNC students. All our friendship pairs come to this event, all our buddies,” Schwagerl said. “But we also invite any member of the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities to come attend as well.”
Joy Prom not only provides a community for people with disabilities but also an opportunity for volunteers who are attending this event to get to know one another.
“I think one of the most interesting parts is that there’s just so many people involved in it,” said Deanna Sipes, a graduate student and volunteer at Joy Prom.
After guests arrive, they head down the red carpet, enjoy performances from Kamikazi Dance Crew, the UNC Achordants and the Clef Hangers and dance the night away.
“The most special part of the event for me is the red carpet,” Schwagerl said. “So each individual guest gets their name announced and gets to have their own moment on the red carpet and walk down with their buddies, with their hosts for the night.”
Schwagerl said the night isn't special just for people with disabilities — it is special for everyone involved.
“I think it’s special, because it’s a night hosted for our friends with disabilities and all our buddies, but it ends up being a night just as special for all of our UNC students that get to come to volunteer,” Schwagerl said. “And being able to see how happy our guests are, how special the night is to them makes the night even special for me.”
One of those happy faces belonged to Kate Shipman, a member of UNC Best Buddies who is returning to Joy Prom for the second time. She said it is definitely a fun experience, much better than her high school prom.
“Just have fun,” Shipman said.
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