Memphis Joy Prom 2021, Drive-thru Style with St. Michael Catholic Church in Partnership with Other Faiths

The coronavirus has forced some changes to an annual event for people with special needs.  But nothing was going to stop this years Memphis Joy Prom, a yearly event born out of Joy Life 901, which is a partnership of Christ Church, Second Presbyterian Church, Grace Evangelical Church, Camp Conquest, Germantown Presbyterian Church, St. Michael Catholic Church, and Young Life Capernaum.

With music blaring and dozens of volunteers cheering, Memphis Joy Prom 2021 rolled out the red carpet – literally and figuratively – for local teens and adults with special needs last night.

Wearing a purple tutu, hot pink soccer socks and donning a pink wig, Gwen Coffey, Social Ministry Director for St. Michael’s, was all smiles as she made her way through Tent 5 where the St.Mike’s Knights of Columbus were cooking up hamburgers and hotdogs for the evenings 300 guests.

“The smiles say everything,” Coffey said as she and her sister Courtney greeted friends from their cars with screams of happiness while handing them each a take home dinner in the parking lot of Christ United Methodist Church.

Memphis Joy Prom usually take place in indoors, but due to the pandemic, this year’s prom was converted to a drive thru event with stations circling the entire block surrounding Christ United Methodist on Poplar. 

As families drove around the block in their decorated cars, volunteers took portraits of the guests of honor and handed out crowns, flowers and other gifts. As the cars passed, students from surrounding schools and other adult volunteers danced, cheered and waved signs of encouragement, even Big Bird made an appearance and guests got a final farewell by local firefighters from City of Memphis Fire Dept. 

“It’s amazing because you think you are bringing them joy when you are actually the one who ends up blessed,” Father Joe Sax said of the drive thru guests. 

Father Ben Bradshaw, pastor of St. Michael’s briefly talked about the importance of ministries like 139:16 and Joy Life 901. “These individuals are not served by us as a community as they should be,” Bradshaw said. “They’re kind of a forgotten population in a lot of ways, but I know together we can change that and let them know that people in the community really love them, their families and their caretakers.  We see them, love them and are here looking out for them.”

While Coffey and her family have participated in the event as volunteers for many years this is the first year St. Michael’s has participated in Memphis Joy Prom.

“It was exciting to begin 139:16 at St.Michael’s, but additionally we are so honored to have the opportunity to join Joy Life 901 as a partner.  They have served this population in Memphis so well for many years and St. Michael’s is so happy to be a part of that going forward.” Coffey said, noting how St. Michael’s is already looking forward to an in-person prom next year and the years to come.

So, until next year let us all ….”Make Good Choices,” as big bird says as he walks away into the night. (Watch Video Here Big Bird)



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