I usually don’t plan my meals three weeks in advance, but I know exactly where I’ll be eating supper the night of Feb. 7.
I’m torn between ordering the smoked chicken, green beans and rice pilaf or the pulled pork, slaw and baked beans. Or a combination of the two. Sweet tea to drink, please.
Dinner will be served at the Georgia Academy for the Blind on Vineville Avenue. That’s just a mile and a half from my house, so I could walk if I had to, but I think I’ll take the wheels. I’m going to be too stuffed to walk home.
It promises to be a special night, and not just because the good folks at Sticky Fingers are providing the delicious food. Students from the academy will be the hosts and hostesses, so I might be able to sweet-talk them into bringing me an extra dessert.
They’re also going to be the entertainment. Some will sing. Others will play the piano and flute.
It starts at 5 p.m. (4:30 for carry-out), and the final dishes will be cleared at 7. The cost is $15 per plate, and it’s for among the worthiest of worthy causes.
After you read about it, you’re going to want to join me for supper.
I’ll save you a seat.
I met with four students from the Academy for the Blind earlier this week, and they’ve been tugging on my heart ever since. They are the four officers for the senior class: Cece Lathon, the president; Chelsea Stevenson, vice president; Doug Couch, secretary; and Jordan Apodaca, treasurer.
Like the other 56 students at the academy, they are blind or visually impaired. These are bright, sweet kids. And they told me all about why they are having a fundraiser in the dining room on campus.
They are trying to raise money for their prom on April 26 and their senior class trip in May.
The senior trip sounds amazing. They are still trying to decide on whether to go to Disney World or Dollywood. Either way, they know they can’t go wrong. Those are two of the most fun places on the planet.
But their hopes and dreams for the prom are what touched me the most. It is an annual event at the Blacksmith Shop on Poplar Street. And everyone in the high school attends, not just the juniors and seniors.
Since most of the academy’s students live in a restricted environment, events such as this offer them the “experience of a lifetime.’’
It’s not your traditional prom night. A few of the boys and girls will go together as couples, but it is mostly one big group date. They will move together on the dance floor -- some of them in wheelchairs -- stopping only to refuel on chips and cola.
They will laugh and hug each other. It is not a fashion show or ego contest. There won’t be any wallflowers.
“They are not hung up on how their hair looks or whether their dress is just right,’’ said Debbie Baggs, a math teacher and a faculty adviser for the senior class. “They laugh. They dance with each other. It brings out the best of the best in them.’’
The only time you will hear any of them complain is when the music stops and it’s time to return to campus. After three hours of almost non-stop dancing, though, most will be asleep before their heads hit the pillow.
For years, the prom at the Georgia Academy for the Blind has provided an outward demonstration of love and support from the community.
It’s a team effort. Local church groups come forward to make contributions. Female students from local high schools donate dresses they have outgrown. On the afternoon of the prom, three Macon salons traditionally invite the girls from the academy to have their hair, nails and makeup done free of charge.
But money, as we all know, doesn’t grow on cherry trees. Faculty members at the academy often dig into their own pockets to make sure every cost is covered and everyone is included.
The students have a couple of ongoing fund-raisers during the school year, making and selling Braille jewelry and calendars. That helps, but it’s not nearly enough. A local restaurant had provided food for the prom for three years, but had to pull out in 2010, leaving a gap in funding. This year, Sticky Fingers has stepped to the dinner plate.
The students and faculty at the academy aren’t looking for a handout. “We try to take care of ourselves,’’ Baggs said. “Our goal is to be independent.’’
But she said even though many students have families who want to support these fundraisers, they often live several hours away, making it impossible to attend on a weeknight. Couch and Apodaca are both from Paulding County in northwest Georgia. Stevenson is from Grovetown, near Augusta, and Lathon is from Clayton County, south of Atlanta.
So here is our chance as a community to be a surrogate family. Call 751-6088 to order a meal ticket, then plan on showing up for dinner on Feb. 7. It’s a Tuesday night, one week before Valentine’s Day.
C’mon. You know you’re going to be hungry.
It’s a night you won’t soon forget. It will make it possible for some young people to have a prom night they won’t forget, either.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org