ROYERSFORD >> On what is statistically one of the most dangerous nights of the year for teens — prom night — parents and community members in the Spring-Ford Area School District have rested easier knowing their students were in safe hands.
For the past 12 years, the district’s annual prom after party called Students Need an Alternative Party, or SNAP, provides a free, fun and, most importantly, safe place for all juniors and seniors to go after the dance, where they can spend the night with friends until the next morning. In the past two years alone, 1,500 students have participated making the annual event a big success.
Because it features activities like giant inflatables, laser tag, Henna tattoos, magicians, balloonists, games, casino tables, a caricaturist, multiple photo booths and prizes, among other things designed to attract students, the perennial issue with SNAP has been the roughly $10,000 entertainment cost. Last year, for example, the organizing committee faced a budget shortfall and asked the school board for $10,000 in order to reach its $29,000 goal.
“We want the kids to want to be here,” said Jean Lare, SNAP secretary and an Upper Providence Elementary School second grade teacher, adding students are surveyed afterward to see what they liked and didn’t like about the event, “so we can have as many people, students and community members safe on this night as possible. That’s our real mission.”
While the board ultimately relented last year, many community members were not thrilled with the idea of public money paying for students to party. That annoyance was reflected on Tuesday when Lare came before the board to present the theme for this year’s event, and was met with a plea for SNAP to not come to the board for money again.
“The public goes a little nuts,” said board member Edward Dressler.
Several on board though said the community simply doesn’t understand the enormous benefit it gains by the district having the event.
“It’s unfortunate the community didn’t understand the importance of SNAP,” said board President Tom DiBello. “One of the most dangerous nights for students is prom night.”
In fact, roughly a third of alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities occur between April and June, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is considered the peak of prom season.
Parents will argue that they can keep students safe by holding their own house party, but he said students are good at finding ways to get around adult supervision and into trouble. SNAP eliminates that concern.
“We’re protecting the whole community,” said board member Colleen Zasowski.
To counter its complaint, board Vice President Joe Ciresi challenged the community to support the event financially so SNAP wouldn’t need to come to the board for help. He suggested local businesses raise between $30,000 and $50,000 and hire a “headliner” to perform during the event in the early morning hours. He also suggested SNAP partner with local car dealerships in order for students to win a one year lease of a used car. Lastly, businesses could sponsor a trip or scholarship for students to win as a prize.
In her presentation, Lare said the SNAP committee has already tried to address its budget issue. The district collaborates with several area school districts including Perkiomen Valley, Phoenixville and Methacton, who share materials and are in constant contact with one another in organizing their post prom events. To keep food costs low, businesses and families donate most of the food. SNAP also holds several fundraisers throughout the year including a battle of the bands concert on homecoming weekend, a magic show, the annual Dancing with the Stars competition, the Spring Ford’s Got Talent show, Bingo events, two color run races, a prom dress donation boutique and a Harlem Wizards basketball game. Even during the event itself, SNAP sells chocolate bars with handwritten messages for students that friends and family can purchase with proceeds benefitting the event for the next year.
Lastly, the committee is preparing to hold a clothing drive at the end of May benefitting the Big Brothers Big Sister Foundation. During the drive, SNAP will raise $0.20 for every pound of clothing received.
The committee is always looking for new ideas to lower costs, she said.
“The whole community can celebrate what a place like Spring-Ford can do when we work together,” she said.