Many teens spend years dreaming of what their prom night will be like—what they will wear, who they will dance with, what the decorations will be. For teens with serious mental and behavioral challenges who cannot attend their regular high school, this dream may seem a bit out of reach. However, the staff at Canopy Children’s Solutions, and a dedicated network of community supporters, help to ensure each child ages 13 and up gets their magical moment.
Teens from the CARES Center Jackson and the CARES Center Gulf Coast danced the night away during the annual Spring Formal, held Friday, April 28. The theme of the event was “Moonlight in Paris” complete with 10-foot lighted replica of the Eiffel Tower, twinkling white lights and a red carpet.
Preparations for the formal began months in advance. Frock Fashions in Madison launched their “Princess Project” to offer incentives for young shoppers to trade in gently-used formal gowns for a discount on the purchase of a new one. As a result, Canopy received dozens of beautiful dresses in all shapes and sizes. Additional gown donations came throughout the year from Mia Bella Prom. Staff worked tirelessly to ensure each girl was fitted for their perfect dress with an array to choose from. They also filled out princess wish-lists of additional needs including jewelry, shoes, and beauty accessories. The boys were fitted in dapper suits and shined shoes from Real McCoy Thrift. Donations also came directly from members of the community just looking to make a difference. The Rotary Club of Gulfport/Orange Grove also helped to collect and purchase items for the teens on the Gulf Coast campus.
The day of the event was filled with excitement as swarms of volunteers converged on campus. Students from Jackson Prep joined Canopy staff to assemble the Parisian promenade that served as a backdrop for the dance floor. Ayana Kinnel with Divinely Designs added ambiance to the dining area with embellished centerpieces and elegant black linens. Rows and rows of cosmetic and beauty products, many of which were donated by Sephora, lined tables as volunteers from Mary Kay, Chos3n Beauty Bar and the Jackson Medical Mall helped design each girl’s glamorous evening look. Teachers, recreation coordinators, direct care staff and therapists all helped get the teens ready for this special evening.
“We look really good,” said one of the boys. “We may even look better than the girls tonight,” joked another.
After a brief photo opp in the courtyard with families and friends, the teens sat down to dinner compliments of the St. Francis of Assisi Chapter of the Knight of Columbus and feasted on pork tenderloin and baked chicken, potato salad and green beans and cupcakes for dessert.
When the curtains opened, the teens were excited for the theme reveal and squealed in delight at the beautiful evening that had been planned for them. The mood was set to the musicals stylings of Beth McInnis with EYM Premier Productions. Hull Portraits also provided each child with a professional formal portrait to commemorate the evening.
“I just felt beautiful,” said one of the girls. “I had a lot of fun. I will definitely remember my CARES Prom and how great it was.”
Watching each child light up with smiles and laughter throughout the evening was a wonderful reminder of our mission at Canopy—to give kids every opportunity to thrive and ultimately overcome extraordinary challenges.
We would like to acknowledge and express deepest appreciation to our CARES and CARES School staff for the planning and effort put into making the night a success. We also want to thank our community partners for their participation and support of this special event:
- Jackson Preparatory Show Choir (Parisian décor and Eiffel Tower)
- Knights of Columbus (Catering)
- Mary Kay Consultant Mary Leo (Makeup)
- Chos3n Beauty Bar (Hair and makeup)
- Jackson Medical Mall (Hair and makeup)
- Hull Portraits (Set & portrait photography)
- EYM Premier Productions (Music)
- Divinely Designed Events by Ayana (Dining decorations)