Rotary hosts ninth annual BUDS prom at Allandale

Rick Wagner • Apr 27, 2018 at 11:15 AM

KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett student Will Fontana gets two proms this year: the midday Thursday BUDS prom at the Allandale Mansion Picnic Pavilion and the Saturday night D-B prom at the MeadowView Marriott Conference, Resort & Convention Center.

That’s twice the dancing and socializing, twice the memories.

“This a full prom experience. They get the full shindig,” D-B teacher Christy Culbertson said of Thursday’s event sponsored by the Downtown Rotary Club of Kingpsort. 

“It’s the prom without the formality,” Culbertson said. “We don’t have to wear uncomfortable tuxedos and dresses.”

Will, 17, was among 13 students with disabilities from D-B who attended the BUDS prom. BUDS stands for Buddies Understanding Different Students, an all-senior group that works with special needs students, explained Culbertson, who along with Meghan Carr teaches functional academics classes at D-B.

Will said he liked the dancing, having fun and going to an event with his BUDS.

“I liked the limo,” Will said of a stretch limousine from F&L Limo in which he and other special needs students arrived.

Students also danced to music from Night Moves Mobile DJs.

He’ll be going to the Saturday prom with BUDS member Catherine Carr, who asked him. 

“This is really fun,” said special needs student Kaileigh Siddons, 18. “They’re (senior BUDS students) our helpers.” 

Among 18 BUDS seniors from D-B who came to the Thursday prom were Madison McCauley and Annie Edison.

McCauley has worked with special needs classes since middle school and plans to major in special education at East Tennessee State University, while Annie plans to major in psychology at Central Florida University and do therapy for special needs students.

Culbertson said the ninth annual event is organized, paid for and promoted by the Rotary Club. “We literally just show up here,” she said.

Dr. Joe Ley, official Rotary photographer for the event and a local pediatrician, said the event is good for the special needs students on multiple levels. He serves some of them in his medical practice.

“Fresh air, exercise and just enjoying the music. It lights them up,” Ley said.

Past Rotary President Milton Carter said the event began when the son of Brad Hoover, a local banker and club member, was in BUDS at D-B.

“We do this because we want to,” Carter said. “It’s the right thing to do.” 



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