MANATEE COUNTY — Sarah Zanoni firmly believes every one deserves to feel like a star for at least one night.
That’s why she spearheaded Faith Christian Church’s first prom for residents with special needs last year. And after seeing the happiness it brought to the more than 400 attendees (including participating residents and volunteers), she knew she would turn it into an annual event.
This year’s prom, themed “Night with the Stars,” will be at 7 p.m., April 23, at the church, 5215 Lorraine Road. Zanoni, fellow prom coordinator Susan Rivera and their staff of volunteers will roll out the red carpet for the movie-themed party, which will feature music, dancing games and more.
“We want them to feel like the superstars they are,” Zanoni said of her guests.
The prom is open to all residents ages 16 and up with special needs. Zanoni and Rivera coordinated with seven high schools and several local organizations that serve residents with special needs and expect as many as 500 attendees.
“We (even) have some coming from Pinellas County, and there’s a lady in North Carolina who had heard about this and wants to do one,” Zanoni said. “That gives me chills.”
Zanoni got the idea after seeing a similar event at a friend’s church in Ohio. After returning to the East County, Zanoni picked up the phone and began organizing her own version.
And even with no budget, last year’s event was a rousing success, she said, thanks to the support of local businesses and organizations. Similarly, this year’s prom has garnered the support of corporate sponsors 1st Choice Network Solutions and N&M Cool Today as well as a variety of local businesses, including All Faiths Food Bank, Bright House Networks, Carmike Royal Palm 20, Cup Cakes A Go Go, Southgate Dillards, Fantech, Goodwill, Family Network Services, First American Bank, Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, Laura Jeans Consignment Shop, Mariposa Nursery, New York Life, Premier Deisgns, S&B Metal Products, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Sandbar Restaurant, Sarasota Film Society, St. Vincent De Paul, Walmart, West Florida Christian School and more.
Additionally, many businesses have donated gift certificates and items for gift bags, and several salons are donating services to participants.
“We’re in such awe of how the community has supported this so well,” Zanoni said.
Contact Michael Eng at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Night with the Stars Prom
WHEN: 7 p.m., April 23
WHERE: Faith Christian Church, 5215 Lorraine Road
DETAILS: Open to all residents 16 and older with special needs
INFORMATION: Sarah Zanoni, 809-4061, or Susan Myers, 747-0927