Sixteen-year-old Maddie Thompson Morley had a very simple dream. And it was one that she’d possessed ever since she was a child: more than anything else, she wanted to go to the high school prom. Morley, however, has autism, and for students with special needs prom night is often just that – a dream. But then she received a call from a stranger that would move her to tears.
Prom night is a very big deal for many high school students – and Maddie is no different. In fact, it was a night she had been dreaming of since she was a little girl. And the teen, from Sacramento County, California, had even picked out the kind of dress she would wear – a gorgeous gown befitting of any princess.
And while many will be busy planning what they’re going to wear, others will be stressing about to invite their dream date to prom. But for some students, they aren’t lucky enough to have these worries – because they are never asked to go to prom at all.
In particular, kids with special needs can often miss out on the activities other children get to enjoy, and going to prom is just one of these. And that seemed to be the case with Maddie, even though her dream of attending prom was a small one.
As the day approached, in fact, she still hadn’t been asked on a date. What’s more, it looked as though time was running out for her to even attend. Despite her disability, though, Morley never gave up hope that her wish would one day be granted.
Then one day at school, she got a surprise she would never forget. As the students gathered in the cafeteria for school assembly, a mystery voice called her to the stage. “Maddie Thompson Morley, would you please come up here? Someone has a very important question to ask you,” came the announcement.
Maddie ran across the canteen, while other students clapped as she sprinted past them and towards the stage. Waiting in the wings was a nervous-looking football player clutching a bunch of flowers. He was holding a sign bearing a question for the teenage girl.
Stepping out from behind the curtain, in front of Maddie, the mystery man said, “Would you go to Evening of Dreams with me?” Without hesitation, and with a huge smile, Maddie replied, “Yes! I would like to.” They hugged, and everyone in the cafeteria cheered.
One of those people in the cafeteria was Maddie’s mom Jennifer, who was there to surprise her daughter. She had been responsible for the proposal from the outset. And when Maddie saw her, she was overwhelmed. In tears, she hugged her mom; she couldn’t believe what was happening.
Incredibly, Jennifer had been able to keep the secret plan quiet for a whole two weeks. It was worth it, though – as the mom told Sacramento-based TV station KCRA in May 2016, “She has always fancied herself a princess with everything from Frozen to Star Wars, so this event is just going to be absolutely magical.”
Meanwhile, the lucky footballer who had scored a date with this special girl was Kooper Richardson, a fellow student at Folsom High School in California. And it appears that the 6’6” teen has a heart to match his stature, too.
Yet despite his imposing presence, Richardson admitted that he found it “a little nerve-wracking” to make his big gesture to Maddie in front of the whole school. Even so, he knew that she was the right choice to be his date. And what’s more, the athlete even gave up a magical night of his own to invite her to prom – his senior trip to Disneyland.
The prom Richardson had asked Maddie to attend was the “Evening of Dreams,” a special event that is organized for those kids who wouldn’t normally have the chance to go to prom. And according to website JumbleJoy, dance director Michelle Raby elaborated, “It is their one night to feel special. It’s just a magical event.”
Since 2009, moreover, Evening of Dreams has connected young, special needs adults with local athletes and exceptional students. They then get to experience prom night, just like anyone else would, with all the bells and whistles. There’s the usual dinner and dancing, as well as even photographers and stylists.
And the fulfillment is a two-way street, too, as there’s gratification for the volunteers who give up their time to make their dates feel special. It is hoped that they will share details of their nights with others and in turn make a difference in the wider community, particularly regarding attitudes toward those with mental and physical limitations.
And that’s why Richardson had no hesitation in sacrificing his time at Disneyland to escort Maddie to the event. Indeed, when he was informed that the two events clashed, the footballer was adamant. He wasn’t going to miss a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for someplace he can go again at any other point.
But the event was definitely most special for Maddie Thompson Morley. Determined to preserve the happiness of being invited to the prom, she placed the flowers Richardson had given her in her room as a reminder. She even kept the sign he made as an invitation.
And on the night, Maddie was given full A-list treatment. She had her own stylist applying her make-up and fixing her hair, a photographer for official portraits and even a special classic car to ride to the event with her date. And yes, she had on her princess gown, too. But the surprises didn’t end there.
During an evening filled with dinner, dancing and fun, Maddie would be called to the stage once again. And the host had an announcement that, undoubtedly, made the teenage girl’s night. Heartwarmingly, Maddie was announced as queen of the prom and was presented with her very own sash and tiara.
And her proud mom was definitely thrilled, too – not least because her daughter’s dream had finally come true. Little Things quotes her as saying, “Going to prom, going to a dance like this has been something she’s wanted to do since she was a little girl. And we never thought it would necessarily happen, because there really isn’t historically a way for special needs students to be included in a prom. This Evening of Dreams is just magic.”