Program participants worked hard to plan an event to remember.
It’s prom season! And SOAR365’s Adult Day Support participants couldn’t wait to celebrate.
Sunny spring days are perfect for socializing, and SOAR365 offers Adult Day Support at three locations across the Richmond area. “What’s a fun activity that we can all come together for?” wondered director Vandal Truong.
After speaking with participants, there was a clear winner: prom.
For weeks, prom activities were thoughtfully worked into SOAR365’s lesson plans. Participants learned about the history and etiquette of prom, and they created colorful decorations during arts and crafts time. Each location chose its own exciting theme: Hollywood Glamour, Fun in the Sun, and Under the Sea.
“They had committees. They decided the themes. They worked on the playlists. And they voted on King and Queen,” said Vandal. Learning how to vote is not only a great skill-building exercise, but also a powerful way to teach each participant that their voice matters.
The event was a true celebration of friendship and camaraderie. Decorations, food and music committees worked collaboratively, supervised by direct support professionals, who were busy taking notes.
“I wanted to really empower the participants to do it. It was their show. We were just helping to steer it,” says Vandal. “On the day of the prom, we wanted the hard work to matter and be meaningful to the participants.”
While several participants have been to prom, for others, it was their first time. Mary, a participant at Saunders, said that she couldn’t wait to get dressed up for the dance. “This is my first one, so you know it’s going to be exciting for me. I can’t wait until that red carpet comes out!” she said, beaming.
SOAR365 Adult Day Support participants also love to take trips to explore the community. A recent line-dancing class had everyone feeling prepared to hit the dance floor. “We went to line-dancing, and we had fun. All of us went. We did the wobble. We did a lot of dances. And we got a certificate!” says Mary.
Matthew, a fellow participant, was equally eager to dance. “I can’t wait!” he said. Matthew worked on the food committee, making sure there would be fresh fruit at the event. He was especially excited about his suit and his date. And he was looking forward to staff members joining in the fun.
That’s just what Vandal had in mind. “We’re a community. We’re all connected here. It was an invitation for everyone to stop by,” says Vandal. He encouraged all SOAR365 staff to share their prom stories and listen to participants’ stories, too. Prom offered employees a special opportunity to really get to know the individuals they serve.
Out on the dance floor, both staff and participants were smiling and laughing as they moved to the music. Sparkling dresses and sharp suits were a standout, while special backdrops created perfect photo opportunities. Party favors like crowns, bracelets and sashes delighted participants and added to the festive mood.
Saunders, Camp Baker and Staples Mill locations were connected virtually for the dance, so participants could see their friends both near and far. At the end of the party, awards were given for Best Dancer, Most Spirited, and of course, Prom King & Queen.
After all their hard work, it’s sure to be a day the participants will never forget. But Vandal is confident that the lessons learned will extend far beyond prom.
“I want to provide them the opportunity for fulfillment because I know that’s contagious. If they apply themselves and put in the hard work to execute this, I know they can take that away and apply it to something else. Whether that’s finding a job or being more socially present with a loved one,” he says. “Whatever it is that’s challenging for them, I know they can apply themselves and carry that on.”
As the fun afternoon of dancing ended, Drew, a participant, declared, “I bet we’re all going to sleep well tonight!”
WTVR Channel 6 came out to capture the fun afternoon, too!
Interested in joining the fun and making a difference? Check out current volunteer opportunities at soar365.org/volunteer.
Or donate today at soar365.org/donate, so that SOAR365 can keep providing life-fulfilling opportunities for people with disabilities.