Special needs prom a teenage dream come true

Ninety-five young people gathered at St. Michael city hall Sunday for a teenage ritual that many would have otherwise never experienced—prom.

The free event was geared towards young people with special needs, and made possible by donations of both time and money.

Organized by Westbridge Community Church, prom goers received a formal outfit, hair and makeup, professional photography, and a limo ride to the dance, free of charge. Each participant was also matched with a teenage volunteer who accompanied them as a “date” the entire night.

“She’s a good friend and I’m going to dinner with her,” gushed 19-year-old Hannah Verdick as she sat among dozens of others getting her hair done. “Oh my goodness, I look fabulous!”

Verdick’s mother Colene said Hannah was so excited to attend her first prom that she’s been using a calendar to mark off the days until the big event.

"Every day, I can't wait for prom, I can't wait for my pink dress,” said Colene Verdick.

Tonight’s event brings about a lot of emotion for Colene Verdick, who didn't know if she would ever see her daughter go to prom.

“She doesn't get to do a lot of things that typical teenagers do so it's very special."

Once the teens arrived at St. Michael-Albertville Senior High School for the dance portion of the evening, they were greeted by hundreds of community members. From Vikings cheerleaders to Wright County Sheriff’s Deputies, the prom goers were cheered down the red carpet with raucous applause and home-made signs.

“Me and my best friend Nicole are going dance and we are going to blow up a storm tonight,” said 19-year-old Beth Vanbeuseklm.

The event was intentionally held one day after SMAHS prom so that the teens could attend prom around the same time as their peers. They also got the same ambiance, as the school agreed to leave the decorations up one more night.

This was the event’s first year, but officials with Westbridge Community Church say it was such a hit they are looking forward to making this an annual event.