News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 25, 2014

Adult prom benefits United Way

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — January is not typically prom season but more than 100 prom-goers — adult prom-goers — in glitzy and creative attires were out and about Saturday night in downtown Terre Haute.

The women, dressed in colorful long and short dresses and men in tuxedos, technicolor outfits and big hair, were at The Indiana Theatre for the “Big Hair & Bow Ties” United Way Adult Prom, a chance to relive their prom night while helping a cause they believe in.

“It’s a chance for adults to get together and relive their fun at prom … or have a better prom,” said United Way  of the Wabash Valley Executive Director Troy Fears.

The fundraising event, which many consider “out of the box,” benefits United Way’s 2013 campaign. It was the last event for the 2013 campaign year, Fears said. The United Way of the Wabash Valley supports programs in education, income and health.

The music and attendees’ attires represented various decades. Participants were asked to come in attire representing the decade in which they graduated.

The event, at the Indiana Theatre, also included food, cash bar, raffle and, of course, photos.

And just like the typical prom night, there was also a prom court. Ten prom king and queen candidates represented each decade — from the 1950s to the 2000’s. They were introduced at the event — to the tune of a popular song from the decade they represented — and were asked to share stories from their prom night.

The candidates who raised the most money for the event through ticket sales, table sales and other forms of fundraising, were crowned king and queen.

One aspiring prom queen told the Tribune-Star before the event about her excitement and the prospect of being crowned.

“This may be my last chance to be crowned prom queen,” Rachel Leslie, who later won the title, said jokingly.

But she keeps her eye on what she considers the real prize.

“As far as winning, the goal is to raise funds for the United Way and the agencies in which they support, so the more money the better,” she said.

Leslie, the associate vice president for advancement at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, said she raised money by reaching out to members of the community, asking for individual donations, utilizing social media and purchasing a table. She also asked her employer to sponsor the event, and the College agreed.

 Leslie wore a long, grey dress at the event. She went to the adult prom with Matt Wyat, another aspiring adult prom king.

“It was an arranged date,” Leslie said with a smile.

Jamie McDowell, a prom king candidate representing the 1990s, also wanted to win, but her overall goal was to help United Way and its programs.

“It’s probably the best of both worlds: fun and a good cause,” McDowell said.

It’s “playing on the emotions of wanting to be prom king when I was in high school,” and the event was a “second chance to have that glory.”

But this time, it will be a competition among colleagues in the community and not his high school friends.

“But I still want to win,” he said.

McDowell made a YouTube video “declaring my candidacy.” In the video, he asked for help from the public in making his “dream, 16 years-in-the-making,” a reality.

George Azar was selected as prom king.

The “throwback” prom’s organizers were excited because it was different and unique.

“This will be like a second chance prom for those interested … if we can have some fun while raising money for a great cause, that’s the ultimate goal,” Whitney Gurman-Roberts, one of the organizers, said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or