PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Prom season is that magical time of year when teenagers get to ask, “who are you wearing?”

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But for hundreds of special needs students across the region and their parents, this rite of passage is elusive.

Earlier this year, in a call to action video, pastor Karl Wilkins of The Mount at Suffolk turned to social media to right wrong for children with mental and physical needs.

In a widely distributed Youtube video, Pastor Wilkins called on the community to help him launch New Beginnings – a prom for special needs students from across the region.

Rochelle Ziegler, a Portsmouth educator is one of several volunteers who answered the call to help.

When asked what she sees in the eyes and needs of students with special needs, Ziegler told 10 On Your Side that, “they didn’t understand what the pandemic was and why they didn’t see us. Which was really hard- and they had to use technology that they were unfamiliar with.”

90 special needs students and their parents are invited to a night on the town next Friday at the Signet Center in Chesapeake. However, there is room for more.

Tuxedos, gowns, food, entertainment, prizes and more are all free.

“It is going to be a jaw-dropping event from the time they pull up on the site to the time that they enter it. There will be guests awaiting their arrival,” Pastor Williams said. “There will be a red carpet; there will be paparazzi-type welcoming; there will be bartenders walking around with smoothie drinks and the ballroom will feature four different cities. It’s just going to be a magical moment.”

New Beginnings has several sponsors including Dr. Angela Reddix’s ARDX Foundation, The Mount at Suffolk, and Cut in His Image Ministries. Pastor Wilkins says additional help is needed as he plans to make New Beginnings an annual event.

For more information, contact Pastor Wilkins at: KarlWilkins@Themountleads.org.