Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 30, 2012

Jesus Prom goes country-western

Tammie Hetzer-Womack
The Independent

RUSSELL — Gary Sizemore’s Jesus Prom expertise spans eight years.

It all got started at Lexington’s Southland Christian Church, a flock shepherding special needs teens and adults at its beautiful ball. When he moved here, he brought the idea to Bridges Community Church.

Celebrating its third year, Jesus Prom again ministers to angelic needs. Although memories abound, one particular one stands out in the Greenup man’s mind.

A disabled young man slowly ambles the Jesus Prom red carpet, wearing a fine borrowed tux. His shoes are old and tattered — and fall apart while making a proud promenade. He can’t speak, but gestures for Sizemore’s help because his formal attire is muddled. Church members ran to him; two men removed their pairs of shoes and offered dress loafers to the boy. A kind worshipper walked barefoot the rest of the night.

“That’s a Jesus moment. We should live like that everyday,” Sizemore said.

This Friday, Bridges Community Church will host a country-western cotillion from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. At this saintly shindig, wheelchairs and orthotic braces are sported alongside cowpoke duds, faded bib overalls, Durango boots and 10-gallon hats.

“No worries about spills on your clothes or what to wear,” grinned Sizemore, adding the decision to make Jesus Prom casual is to help moms, dads or caregivers plan.

No formal is complete without a pre-prom dinner before hitting the dance floor. Guests chow down on a country feast of barbeque sauce-laden pulled pork and Southern sides at the adjacent “Warehouse,” before riding a handicapped-accessible hay wagon to the church to dance the night away.

Tracy Tooley and the band from Huntington’s ReGeneration Church will deliver tunes.

Jesus Prom participants enjoy a formal prom photo-shoot from Greenup’s-own KMK Photography — while a “paparazzi” of church volunteers strolls the affair, snapping candid pictures, and making memories to upload and share with families.

It’s a free night of fun for people age 16 and over, with prayers to mainstream those with learning, developmental, medical, behavioral and mental health disabilities. For many partygoers, this might be the only dance they ever attend. Sizemore’s lucky to retain a 10-member committee to make the night a seventh heaven.

Community devotion and God’s grace helped the themed party grow in its blessed ministry, Sizemore said. Jesus Prom doubled in size from its inaugural year — and Sizemore expects more than 100 merrymakers to boot, scoot and boogie as the party starts rolling.

That’s why he needs the area’s help. Enlist as a date — or “best friend” — for the night; dole-out dinner, donate, or just usher with scripture, showing Jesus purely loves the young attendees.

“We need hands of helping, as many as we can find,” said Sizemore, the devout founder of downtown Greenup’s Emmaus Respite and Resource Center — a day center for those with disabilities.

For more information or to RSVP attendance to Jesus Prom, call Russell’s Bridges Community Church at (606) 836-8944.