.- At Wednesday’s awards session in Phoenix, a Massachusetts Knight’s council was awarded the Order’s 2009 Community Activities Award for their efforts in organizing a prom for 75 special needs students in and around the Pembroke, Massachusetts area.
CNA spoke with council’s Grand Knight, Kevin McKenna, who explained that for the past two years, he and his council have put together a prom night for 75 local special needs students to not only give them an opportunity to dress up and celebrate, but also to help teach the community about different disabilities children face.
McKenna and his wife, Hope, explained to CNA that they were motivated to organize the dance after realizing that other students and parents didn’t seem comfortable around their autistic daughter while she was in middle school.
McKenna presented the idea to his council, Council 6267, then spoke with other councils in the area to obtain resources, donations and volunteers.
The council received donations from restaurants, formal wear stores and a strong response from those interested in helping out. A variety of community members have had a hand in the event: National Honor Society students looking for service hours, women from Bingo nights, other councils and the Rotary Club.
McKenna explained that since the prom draws in so many community members, it serves an additional purpose: not only is it fun for the students, but it also eases the intimidation some people feel when encountering someone with a disability.
“We’ve tried to make a difference in the community around us as well as for the children who come to the prom,” he said.
“It’s amazing, he added, “you go there and see the expressions on the faces of the students and they’re having a great time.”
Parents of the students are also invited, but are treated into a sit-down pasta dinner instead of a dance. Hope McKenna explained that the dinner gives the parents time to relax and also to talk to other parents about children with similar disabilities and share information about doctors or other resources.
Kevin McKenna also issued a challenge to his brother Knights, asking them to consider organizing a similar event: “I’d like to challenge every other council in the United States and Canada to make a difference in these children’s lives.” “And we can point them in the right direction so they can make a difference in the lives of God’s special children and young adults,” he added.
In addition to the Community Award, the Knights also honored councils for their church and council related activities.
The 2009 Church Activities Award was presented to St. Joseph’s of Lino Lakes Council 9905 for spearheading a restoration project of a neglected church built in 1897. While initial estimates for repairing the church were more than $830,000, with the help of more than 40 Knights, their families, community members and parishioners, the council replaced the interior walls and the roof, refurbished pews, restored stained glass and installed plumbing for less than $150,000.
The Knights also handed out the 2009 Council Activities Award to Council 12791 from northeastern Virginia for creating the “McGivney Vision Program”.
Named after the Order’s founder, it was designed to provide both spiritual and financial support to members in need of assistance due to unemployment, family heath issues or other financial burdens. The program also provides business networking and career support.
When annual dues statements were sent out, members were encouraged to donate additional money to the program, which to date has netted $10,000 to assist fellow Knights in need.