A swirl of glittering gowns, sleek tuxes and suits, and enough spirited dance tunes to boogie the night away. That was the scene Saturday for the fifth annual Child Abuse Prevention Adult Prom, which raised about $55,000.

With the theme “A Night at the Movies,” Adult Prom unfolded at The Commons as something of a blockbuster success for the coordinating Family Service Inc. of Columbus.

“If your high school prom maybe wasn’t so great, this can be a chance to relive that time and make the experience new,” said Julie Miller, Family Service’s executive director.

Some among a sold-out crowd of 650 people said they were doing precisely that.

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The group of attendees, among the larger event crowds at the downtown Columbus venue, ate, drank, took funny portraits with silly, oversized props, and, in true prom style, elected a king and queen.

Mark Ziegler, battalion chief with the Columbus Fire Department, and Joy Brown, manager of Metabolic Research Center, enjoyed their crowning achievement — earned by raising the most money for the cause.

Just before organizers counted the votes, registered with monetary donations, Ziegler took an empty fireman’s boot through the crowd in a last-minute blaze of fundraising frenzy. In 30 minutes, he collected about $200 more toward his votes.

“My game plan was to fill the boot for this great cause,” Ziegler said. “I thought maybe this was a way to go above and beyond.”

Laura Moses, the first queen from the inaugural event and now a member of the prom’s organizing committee, laughed about her decision to be on the court when asked in 2013.

“I thought at the time that it was maybe the craziest thing I’d ever said yes to,” Moses said.

Others reminisced about their teen times.

Renee Mitchell chuckled about some high school classmates in New Jersey using prom partly as an excuse to go out drinking. But she aimed to use the adult prom for one special experience away from the busy schedules that she and her spouse maintain: “The chance to get my husband to slow dance with me.”

Others in the crowd also connected with the idea of a romantic evening together.

Bruce and Carol Phillips sat at a table waiting for friends to join them early in the night. He said he felt his dapper bow-tie made their coordinated, stylish outfits “just a little more upscale” amid a throng marked by sweeping updos and sparkling jewelry.

“This seems to be the THE social event of Columbus,” Bruce Phillips said, looking over a stream of formal and semi-formal arrivals passing under a multi-colored balloon archway.

Jenny Hahn, a Centerstone social worker who assists children and adults affected by trauma, attended with friends to support the cause near and dear to her heart. One friend, Toni Kellems, said this was a different kind of prom compared to her high school event.

“I feel like the pressure is off now,” Kellems said, referring to teen peers of yesteryear.

Deana Holley could relate. She attended Saturday in a dress she made, but recalled worrying over her high school prom in Columbus in 1984. She was uncertain she could afford a proper dress, and worked at Joy’s Bridal Shop until she could purchase one for $350.

“Back then, I was so stressed about fitting in with other girls,” Holley said.

On Saturday, some people seemed to want to stand out. One young man, for instance, wore a suit, but paired it with deck shoes and no socks.

No matter their choice of fashion, many in the crowd hit the dance floor an hour into the proceedings. An early tune that surfaced, fittingly, was Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.” Organizing committee member Tim Green’s musical mix for the night included current country and pop, plus 1970s hits from “Saturday Night Fever” and 1980s Madonna hits.

Plus, a crowd that included a solid number of couples in their 20s and 30s, seemed to all join a sing-along when Journey’s classic 1981 tune, “Don’t Stop Believing” echoed through the building.

Family Service’s Miller smiled more than once when she looked over the throng and considered that nearly $250,000 has been generated to fight child abuse since the adult prom began.

“You know,” she said, “these people are making a huge impact tonight just by showing up.”

Child abuse prevention programs

The nonprofit Family Service Inc. fights child abuse in Bartholomew County mainly through these three programs:

  • Caring Parents: Helps parents learn to cope with a baby’s crying, and is seen as a way to prevent shaken baby syndrome.
  • Healthy Families: A home-visitation program promoting healthy families and healthy children by helping parents of young children enhance child-rearing skills.
  • Kids On the Block: A puppet-oriented, school-based prevention program equipping children with knowledge of physical and sexual abuse — and ways to protect themselves or to report abuse.

The prom court

Queen candidates

  • Joy Brown, manager of Metabolic Research Center (selected as queen).
  • Megan Bozell, Clifty Creek Elementary School second-grade teacher.
  • Laura Garrett, community initiatives lead for Healthy Communities Initiative.
  • Mary Hamlin, Columbus North High School special-education teacher.
  • Emily Snyder, legal assistant at Coriden Glover law firm.

King candidates

  • Mark Ziegler,¬†battalion chief with the Columbus Fire Department (selected as king).
  • Travis Kesler, general manager of 4th Street Bar and Grill.
  • Sean Burton, Ziggie’s bartender and server and Ivy Tech Community College student.
  • Dave Steinkoenig, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department¬†captain and road commander.
  • Jamie Brinegar, Columbus’ director of finance, operations and risk.
Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.