The senior prom starts with music from the ’40s, ‘5os and ’60s. (Photos by Grace Brown)
Prom is a night to remember, and Leeza’s Care Connection recently provided that to seniors in the Midlands.
But they weren’t just typical seniors.
Starry Night Prom hosted seniors in highschool, seniors in college and senior citizens at the Gala Event Center on March 23.
Leeza’s Care Connection, the event organizer, called it “a night of music, dancing and celebrating the joy of living at every age.”
Leeza’s Care provides caregivers and their families a place to participate in programs, gain support and have their voices heard. Those caregivers have family members who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other chronic illnesses.
Volunteers and corporate and business sponsors came, too.
“We get to connect the people that fund us to the community members and also display what we’ve done, what we’re doing and what we’re all about, which is just to support people and give love,” said Heidi Treser.
Treser, a senior majoring in social work at the University of South Carolina, interns for Leeza’s Care because of her interest in working with older people.
She said most of those who benefit from the care center are older, even though caregivers are of all ages.
“Tonight is about giving back to caregivers, essentially,” Treser said.
Tim and Amy Averkamp surprised their daughter by driving from Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the event. They said she’d been working for Leeza’s Care for more than three years while attending USC.
“Alzheimer’s has a very big impact in our family history, and Lilly’s taken it up as a cause,” Tim Averkamp said.
Leeza’s Care sold 100 “Send a Senior” tickets to pay seniors’ way to the prom.
“This is for our caregivers in the area to go to prom for free, and they don’t have to spend any money here, all the food is free,” Treser said.
Television personality and Irmo native Leeza Gibbons, the CEO and founder of the organization, opened the night by welcoming the attendees. She shared kind words and told them how grateful Leeza’s Care is for their support.
Staff, volunteers and attendees mingled together on the dance floor and at the buffet tables, making plates of food.
Krisdee Clark, Mrs. American 2022, was invited as a special guest. She crowned the prom king and queen at the end of the night.
“Leeza has a wonderful story,” Clark said.
“Supporting the senior community is so imperative,” she said. “And having something like this, where people can interact together and just have a wonderful time, that’s why we’re here.”
Clark is also the director of corporate affairs for one of the largest hospice and palliative care groups in the Southeast.
“Working in hospice care is really near and dear to my heart,” she said. “… It’s important that we recognize our seniors, do fun things, and have events to fulfill life. It’s all about living.”
Many of the volunteers were from local Columbia high schools.
“One of our really good friends is affiliated with Leeza’s Care and she’s had a few family members that have been affiliated with that group,” Chapin High School junior Lindsay Hood said. “We’re here supporting her and Leeza’s Care Connections.”
Volunteers worked as escorts and checked people in.
“We’re also supposed to dance and try to get people to get up and dance,” Chapin High School junior Jackson Palmer said. “We’re here to let them have a good time.”
Gibbons couldn’t have been happier with the turnout of around 250 people.
“We believe that prom should be for everyone,” Gibbons said. “Whether you’re 18 or 80 or better, you should have a prom experience.”
Leeza Gibbons, of Leeza’s Care Connection, starts the night by thanking everyone and introducing special guests.
Seniors at the University of South Carolina help celebrate the prom.
Mrs. American, Krisdee Clark, and her husband, Josh Clark, were special guests.
A special gratitude dance was held for attendees to bring those near and dear to their heart onto the dance floor.