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Second Chance Dance

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Carroll holds a prom for all ages

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

HILLSVILLE –– Everyone deserves a second chance. For Albert Fulp, it only took something in the neighborhood of 70 years.

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Fulp, an 86-year-old R.J. Reynolds retiree from Winston-Salem, N.C., and Kathy Delp, a 56-year-old close friend from Galax, were among the 150 or so who were provided another opportunity to attend the formal dance that circumstance may have prevented them from enjoying as teenagers, as Galax-Carroll County Relay for Life held its inaugural Second Chance Prom recently at Carroll County High School.

By all accounts and by any measure, the event was a hit. The dance drew far more interest than organizers had hoped, and it generated thousands of dollars for Relay for Life. Plus, some 75 couples were given a venue in which to enjoy a prom for the first time, or to re-live one from the past.

“We had heard of second-chance proms in other areas,” said Judy Beasley, co-chair of the Galax-Carroll County Relay for Life, who organized the event along with Hannah Terry, a bridal consultant at Country Formals in Hillsville. “My husband Rick loves music and dancing so he encouraged me to try it.”

Beasley knew from speaking with Country Formals owner Lora Terry that there has been an interest in a local second-chance prom. Such events are more common in larger metro areas but none have been held in the Twin Counties.

“So we decided to give it a try,” Beasley said. If the first event is a barometer of interest in such an event, the inaugural prom will not be the last one.

Event organizers had hoped to have an attendance figure of around 100, which was easily surpassed, and the local Relay for Life brought in more than $3,500 for cancer research. Country Formals donated $10 for every dress bought for the dance, Delp’s Photography did the same with tux rentals, and an on-site photographer donated all proceeds from prom portraits. Ideal Florist was a major contributor, along with The Galax Smokehouse.

The Hale-Wilkinson-Carter Home Foundation provided a candlelight dinner for attendees beforehand, and DJ Dave Newman and Special K Krista Neely donated their time and service for the evening’s music.

The timing was perfect for the event, as the CCHS gym was still fully decorated from hosting the high school’s prom the previous night.

CCHS staff may need to refinish the gym floor near the jump circle, because Fulp and Delp nearly wore the finish off of the hardwood there. If Delp remembers correctly, she and Fulp did not sit out one single dance.

“Some of the younger couples there were amazed that he knew the electric slide, he knew how to do the wobble, he knows how to do the cupid shuffle, he picks up on all of that,” said Delp, whose husband wasn’t too keen on putting on a suit, so she invited Fulp, a longtime family friend.

Fulp is somewhat of a minor celebrity among local dancing circles and is a favorite of beach music bands such as The Tams, The Catalinas and The Band of Oz.

“They all know him,” Delp said.

Fulp lost his hearing to an illness at age 5 or 6, but has an antique hearing aid that allows him to hear the beat. He goes out dancing three or four nights a week, from Whitetop to The Rex to the Blackmont in Mount Airy, N.C.

“His doctors just tell him to keep doing whatever he’s doing,” Delp said.

The age range of attendees was anywhere from Fulp’s 86 years to those not too far removed from having graduated high school. Makenzie Neff and Dustin Carter began dating just after high school, and were one of the more conspicuous couples, despite wearing what was designed for incognito activities.

Neff brought out a RealTree-patterned formal dress that she had worn to her senior prom. Carter wore a shirt of the same pattern. The blaze orange of his ballcap was a perfect match for Neff’s blaze orange sash.

“It was a whole lot easier to get him there if I wore camo,” said Neff, a recent Virginia Tech graduate who is planning an October wedding with Carter. “I never let him wear the hat because I think it’s ugly, but it fit just perfectly.”

As did most in attendance, Neff hoped the event would become an annual one. Beasley said plans were already being made.

“It was so much fun, and it was for such a good cause,” she said. “I think Dustin was glad that he went, and we’ll go back again.”

As will Delp, who missed her high school prom after she dropped out of school at 15. She later earned her G.E.D., graduated from the nursing program at Wytheville Community College and is now a registered nurse.

“I thought it was great,” she said. “I loved the decorations, the dancing, the music, the food, just everything about it. And it was for such a good cause.”

She hopes she will return, once again in the accompaniment of the eternally-spry Fulp.

“I told him, ‘Well, we’ve gone to our junior prom, we’ll have to go to our senior prom next year.’ “