Four years ago, 93-year-old Mary Sue King admitted to her grandson, Ray Wallin, that she had never been to a prom. The glitz and glam of getting dressed up and spending a night with friends dancing until the sun came up seemed like fun, she said, but the time for that had passed.
That got his wheels turning.
Wallin, 49, decided to host a prom geared toward senior citizens in Walker County, and with the help of senior centers in LaFayette and Chickamauga, he launched the Walker County Senior Citizens Prom in 2015. Wallin, a Chickamauga based DJ of KicknitDJs, went on to spin records at two more consecutive proms that drew attendees age 65 and up from across the county.
When he called to confirm the date for the 2018 event, he learned that the senior homes had lost a $1,000 grant used to reserve a venue and pay for catering. The prom had to be canceled at the last minute.
"There was a lot of sad elderly folk that year. I was determined to make it happen this year," Wallin said.
In February, he reserved the Walker County Civic Center for the Nov. 8 bash. The $650 deposit came from donations from local businesses and sponsors. Wallin got Chickamauga restaurant Five Points Farm House on board to cater the event for a discounted price, and local bakeries to donate desserts, too.
In order to pay for the bulk of the catering, centerpieces and decorations, Wallin is asking Walker County residents to sponsor a prom ticket for $10. He is committed to this event being free for any senior citizen.
"It's to show our appreciation," Wallin said. "They've gone through so much, I want to give them a night to laugh and smile, have a nice meal."
The energy at the proms is proof of how much the events resonate with seniors like his grandmother.
"I cannot get out of there without a [conga] line," he said with a laugh. "They're all following each other in their wheelchairs and with their walkers going around the room."
Seniors can attend the prom for free Nov. 8 from 6-9 p.m. at the Walker County Civic Center. Residents looking to sponsor a senior can contact Wallin at 423-316-4309 or donate online at tinyurl.com/WCSeniorCitizenProm2019.
Email Sabrina Bodon at firstname.lastname@example.org