ROANOKE, Va. – A Southwest Virginia program based out of the Roanoke Valley that encourages high schoolers to stay sober on prom night is at risk of coming to an end.
One lucky student has won a car at the After Prom Grand Finale for the past 31 years. But its longtime funding has been diverted to help battle the opioid crisis.
That's why they're taking their mission to the national level, vying for a $25,000 grant from State Farm Neighborhood Assist and they've been selected as a Top 200 finalist. If they don't win, the raffle could be finished forever.
The car giveaway is a highlight for many students in Virginia's Blue Ridge. First Team Automotive donates the car, students like WIlliam Byrd High School Junior Dylan Wimmer are entered to win for doing just one thing.
"It keeps us at after prom that way were not going out there and performing activities unbefitting of us teenagers," Wimmer said.
Upperclassmen at participating schools who pledge to stay sober on prom night, staying until the end of their school's after prom party are entered into the raffle to win. For 30 years, the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition, known as RAYSAC, made the event happen. But 2018's event was their last because the issue the car giveaway combats, teen drinking, has been overshadowed, according to After Prom Grand Finale Coordinator Becky Parr said.
""They did need to shift their priorities and they are really tackling the opioid epidemic and we were grateful that YOVASO stepped up to take over it," Parr said.
The Youth of Virginia Speak Out Advisory Board stepped up to organize the event, but does not have the money to make it happen. Year 31 of the giveaway, YOVASO's first giveaway, in 2018, was saved for one reason.
"Because of a local private donor, a very generous local private donor, and it's not fair to expect them to pay every single year so we need these funds," Parr said.
While the car is free, everything else that it takes to put the event on is not and without funding the program could die. That's why their competing for the grant to keep the program alive.
"The after prom grand finale with the incentive of winning a car is that extra push they need to keep them there until the very end and that's what keeps them safe is staying until the end," Parr said.
Parr said that in the past 31 years of this event, none of the participating schools have lost a student to a drug- or alcohol-related driving accident on prom night. The group estimates over 85,000 lives have been saved in the last 31 years. This year, more than 5,251 students from 40 high schools across Southwest Virginia made it home safely to their families after one of the biggest and most dangerous nights of their young lives.
To vote, click here. Anyone voting is allowed to vote up to 10 times per day. Voting ends on Aug. 23 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET. You must be 18 and have a valid email address to vote.
If the YOVASO Advisory Board is chosen, it will receive the $25,000 grant at the end of October.