Only at the J.O.Y. School would tornado winds, sticky-sweet lollipops and a wicked witch be so highly acclaimed—and so popular.

Their cast of costars, which included two tin men, a scarecrow, a lion, Emerald City Bells, lots of munchkins and three girls who called themselves Dorothy, received equal applause on the stage of the Holsclaw Fellowship Hall on Wednesday, July 24. Under the direction of Program Director Martha Insignares and the Pawleys Island Presbyterian Church J.O.Y. School staff, the students entertained their audience with a music-filled evening titled “Ease on Down: The Road to Joy.”

The acronym J.O.Y. stands for Jesus First, Others Second, Yourself Last.

Wearing their solid green shirts while they jangled, clanged and rang their busy instruments, the school’s Emerald City Bells began the event with the song “There’s A Place for Us” which segued into the performers’ processional, the pledge, the prayer and selected tunes from “The Wiz” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Audience members, both with and without recording devices in hand, hummed and tapped along to memorable favorites such as “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” and “Slide Some Oil to Me” as the songs were energetically brought to life through the talents of the young cast. Carrying classroom-created poster boards, the cast affirmed the message, “I am smart; I am love; I am brave” as their memorable finale.

“It was fantastic!” exclaimed Peggy Denby, secretary from Murrells Inlet Presbyterian Church. “We do meals for them every summer--our church,” she continued, sharing that Frank Holsclaw, who initiated the program in 1981, was currently serving as their interim pastor in Murrells Inlet.

“Everything was awesome,” said Debbie Haselden who drove two hours from the town of Dillon to see the show with her equally impressed husband, Mark. “We were here to see Silas Sessions. He’s the tornado and he’s my great-nephew, she said proudly. “This is our second year and the drive was well worth it.”

Beautiful,” said Julia Anderson a North Santee resident who comes every year to watch her grandson, Rekeyias Anderson. This year, Rekeyias demonstrated his singing and dancing abilities as the brave lion. “He’s brave anyway,” she noted. “I really enjoyed it. It was really nice.”

Program Director Insignares took a few minutes after the Kiwanis Club’s reception to remind others of the theme imprinted on many of the shirts: “The JOY School of Pawleys Island SC---Where each child is uniquely gifted and loved by God.” Surrounded by her husband and “voluntold” son, Steven, Insignares reflected, “Every summer when I’m here with all these people that come together because of these children, I realize that we probably wouldn’t ever come together but because of these children we have this family--this JOY family--and it’s really a unique bunch of people. We may not have anything else in common, except this love for these children and it’s kind of neat.”

A mom from Murrells Inlet stopped on her way out to express her gratitude for the program. “Martha’s an amazing lady,” said Judy Ghanem, mother of Kira. who played a munchkin in the evening’s musical program. “Kira’s been coming here for about three or four years,” said Ghanem, “and I don’t know what I would do without it!”

The closing production marked the 35th year of the school’s six-week program that will start again next summer, providing six weeks of summer classes in music, art, academics, drama, and adaptive physical education to children with intellectual disabilities. With the contributions of sponsors and volunteers, the students were also treated to the Myrtle Beach Aquarium, the bowling center and the swimming pool.

Monday and Tuesday classes are scheduled at the church for adults with intellectual disabilities. They are designed so that the JOY school can give back to the community and run from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. during the academic year. The acronym J.O.Y. stands for Jesus First, Others Second, Yourself Last.

More information about the school can be found on their regularly updated Facebook page.