Sister inspires teen to create prom for disabled
What started as a senior project morphs into annual extravaganza
(Left) Jillian Shnowski with her sister, Megan, who passed away when she was 5 years old. (Right) Jillian, now 18, used her sister as inspiration for her senior project, which created a prom for disabled residents.
Jillian Shnowski, a senior at Destrehan High School, got more than she bargained for after her senior project, a prom for the St. Charles Parish community’s disabled residents, was picked up as an annual event by the parish’s Parks and Recreations Department and the Arc of St. Charles.
Shnowski said she felt compelled to do something for the parish’s disabled population due to her own family’s experiences.
Shnowski’s sister was born with a genetic disorder called trisomy 18. She passed away at the age of 5 when Shnowski was 2 years old.
“My parents taught me at a young age to respect everyone and treat others fairly, even if they aren’t able to do the things I am able to do. Because my sister Megan was born with Trisomy 18, this lesson came very easily,” Shnowski said. “I have a personal connection to disabled individuals and have always wanted to give back. With my sister as inspiration, I decided to host a prom for citizens living with a disability as my senior project.”
After coming up with the idea, Shnowski began searching for a venue for the disabled prom and came across the newly-constructed Edward A. Dufresne Community Center in Luling.
“I started calling around to places to host it. Someone suggested calling Erica Mire at the new community center and she took it to her directors for disabled assistance,” she said.
That’s when the little plan to provide a fun activity for the parish’s disabled community turned into something much larger.
Mire, the community center coordinator, received permission to not only sponsor the disabled prom for this year, but to make the event an annual occurrence.
“It brings awareness, above all, for individuals in our society and all of the different types of disabilities,” Mire said. “Having an event and function when you can get these people out of their houses and have them interact with each other creates a healthy lifestyle.”
The event will feature door prizes, a cartoonist, carnival games, face painting and many other activities.
“It is going to be an exciting night,” Mire said.
In addition, Mire said the event gives the new community center a chance to fulfill its mission.
“Overall our goal is that (the community center) is affordable and accessible and the building gets utilized,” she said. “These are the types of programs we hope the facility gets used for.”
The prom will be held on April 6 and the $5 entrance fee will be considered a donation and will go towards funding the night’s activities as well as broader outreach efforts in the community.
“All of the funds we receive will go back into the Arc and Parks and Recreation to pay for the event. Anything in excess of that will be donated to the Arc of St. Charles Parish,” Mire said.
In addition, Shnowski has started a crowd funding account through GoFundMe that raised more than $2,000 within the first week alone, a number that is currently at $2,534.
“I raised a lot within a week. I was just shocked, blown away. Now there is so much more I can provide to make the dance better,” she said.
Along with the positive support she has received from the community, Shnowski said she is really looking forward to the positive impact the night will have on those attending.
“It gives them the opportunity to dance and socialize and have a good time,” she said. “It shows everyone how important it is and how much it will mean to the disabled citizens who will attend and have a prom to go to.”
Those seeking more information, or who would like to attend the disabled prom, should call (985) 233-0082. To donate to the effort, visit www.gofundme.com/jillianshnowski.
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