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Event gives guests chance for new prom memories

Mar. 30, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said he knows the importance of second chances all too well.

He and his wife, Mary Williams, have been married for 23 years, but their relationship dates back to the 1970s during their time as classmates at Huntington High School.

Back then, Williams said he and Mary had a short courtship during one spring in high school.

He said he had hoped to take Mary to the prom that year, but she told him she wanted to go with another guy.

That was almost 40 years ago, and, even though they shared a wedding and more than two decades worth of anniversaries, they never had attended prom together.

They got that chance Friday night.

The Williamses' shared the first dance at the "Almost Paradise" prom event at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, where nearly 200 guests with disabilities or whose previous prom experiences were tainted or non-existent had a chance to make some new memories, said Angela Clay, who co-organized the event with Huntington City Councilman Rick Simmons.

Williams said while the event was a chance to have a good time, he said it also provided a second chance for people to experience a rite of passage they may have missed out on the first time around.

"It's not every day you get a second chance to experience a lot of opportunities, especially getting to come out to something like this and have a good time," said Williams. "This is a wonderful way to reach out to individuals who, for one reason or another, thought the opportunity to experience something like this was long gone."

The prom marked the first event to be funded using one of the "exceptional city grants" allotted in this year's budget.

Under the program, each City Council member has $2,500 to distribute among neighborhood associations, community centers or any other organization that would use the money to encourage development in their respective districts.

Clay said she hoped everyone, regardless of their reason for attending, found the fulfillment they were looking for.

"I'm hoping they make a lot of happy memories and that I see a lot of smiles walking out of the door," said Clay. "It's good to be able to come here and socialize with people you know and some of your city leaders when it isn't all about business. This is a special night."