By Sherry KiddSeptember 29, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 29, 2011) -- "It was a magical and elegant evening," said Viktoria Green, Combined Arms Support Command Family Readiness Group leader, as she described the recent Second-Chance Prom hosted by her organization.
"The whole celebration was filled with dancing, fun and lots of surprises," she continued. "I don't think I've ever seen Soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians and their spouses and dates happier or enjoying themselves more."
Green is talking about the Sept. 17 event at the Hilton Garden Inn, Colonial Heights. Around 230 guests attended the prom that is believed to be a first among Army recreational activities or its FRG program at a minimum.
"When the evening started, our guests walked into a ballroom area that was meticulously decorated," noted Lindsay Kidd, an event coordinator for the FRG. "Our theme was Castle CASCOM, and there was a huge castle backdrop where couples posed for pictures. The beautifully adorned tables included elegant linens and ribbons, as well as crystals and lit candles glowing in delicate hurricane holders. Black velvet tapestries, ivy and old bricks adorned the walls."
An elaborate red carpet flanked by velvet ropes led attendees into this "fairy tale" setting and pictures were taken as guests made their grand entrances.
"Dancing, exquisite food, a royal court, VIPs and dignitaries, and even an impromptu proposal were all part of this totally free evening for prom participants," added Sgt. 1st Class Atiya McNair, another event organizer.
The prom committee also consisted of Sherry Kidd, CASCOM Family Readiness Specialist; Sgt. 1st Class David Walker; Sgt. Nelson Santiago; Staff Sgt. Fransanda Parker and Staff Sgt. Edward Tee.
"Our committee conducted extensive fundraising in the months that led up to the Prom," said Capt. Ellis Allen, HHC CASCOM commander. "Without the repeated and creative ways of collecting donations, there is no way they could have thrown such an elaborate and elegant event."
Allen's date for the evening was his 9-year-old daughter, Olivia. Dressed in a blue ball gown and corsage, some introduced her as the "unofficial junior prom princess."
The aforementioned proposal occurred during remarks by the Installation Chaplain (Col.) James White. Staff Sgt. Randy Case came forward, called up his date, Kimberly Garnowski, dropped to the floor on one knee and proposed on the spot.
"I felt like a princess," Kimberly said through tears, "and I will cherish the moment and this night forever."
When Kimberly accepted the proposal, the ballroom full of prom-goers jumped to their feet with a boisterous standing ovation.
Among the prom's special guests was state Sen. Henry L. Marsh III. During the evening, he offered a toast to Soldiers and thanked them for their selfless service and patriotism.
Another highlight of the gathering was the ceremony honoring the five CASCOM princes and princesses who were elected as nominees for prom king and queen. Each received an assortment of prizes before the "crowning moment" when Sgt. 1st Class Roger Higginbotham and Katreta Gunn received the highest honors and were spotlighted in a dance with their spouses. The music was Nat King Cole's rendition of "Unforgettable."
As the night wore on, couples danced, kissed and had a chance to enjoy a high-school memory for the second time, or for many attendees, for the first time in their lives.
"I missed my first prom," said Josie Emery of the Logistics Career Management Office. "This was such a great opportunity for me and I jumped at the chance when I saw the announcement about the event."
She and her date, Robert Williams, were the first couple on the dance floor that night. Williams said he was there to support Emery and give her the prom that she never had. "She said we were going to have the first dance, and we did."
"This was truly the classiest, most elegant and definitely the most ambitious undertaking I have ever seen tackled by our FRG, or by any organization for that matter,' Green said. "I am especially grateful for the superb work of our events coordinator (Kidd). She is a professional in the truest sense of the word."
"The Army and CASCOM's FRG is dedicated to building resilient families," said CASCOM and Fort Lee Command Sergeant Major C.C. Jenkins Jr. "We are well aware that functions like these go a long way in improving the morale of our Army community, and this particular event was head and shoulders above the rest."
On Sept. 22, the prom committee was recognized for its hard work by Maj. Gen. James L. Hodge, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general.
"This was a world-class event that everyone is still talking about, and I am proud, impressed and amazed at what the seven of you were able to accomplish for our Soldiers and DA Civilians," Hodge said. "It gives me great pleasure to present each of you with this Commanding General's Award of Excellence."