1,000 People Celebrate 'Prom' With Dying Wisconsin Teen

by Valerie Williams
Image via USA Today

She wanted one last party before entering hospice care later this summer

At a time when life should be endlessly shining and full of promise, one teen will enter hospice care but first, a big party with special guests where she’s the girl of the hour. And that’s how “J’s Last Dance” was born.

Accoriding to USA Today, Jerika Bolen doesn’t have much longer to live. The Wisconsin 14-year-old suffers from spinal muscular atrophy type 2, a disease that destroys nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord and means that Jerika has never walked. She’s in a lot of pain, and although she can still speak and has movement of her hands, things won’t get any better for her.

That’s why she made the decision, with her loving mother Jen’s support, to turn off her ventilator and enter hospice care at the end of August. But first, her prom.

More than 1,000 people came to the Grand Meridian ballroom in Appleton, Wisconsin to dance and show support for the young woman who’s touched so many lives. She says of the large turnout, “It’s awesome. It’s fun. It’s a lot of people, and they look up to me. It’s kind of scary because I don’t know what they’re looking up to me for.”

Well, I have an idea. As an adult woman, I can’t imagine the courage and fortitude it takes to face your own death with such grace and poise. To arrive at a party to celebrate your life knowing there’s not much of it left to live requires a strength that most of us won’t ever possess.

No big deal, just sobbing my eyes out. I’ll be fine.

So Jerika arrived at her special party, hair dyed a shiny blue with lip gloss to match, and took in an evening geared entirely toward her. The decorations were lime and black, the teen’s favorite colors, and Jerika got to be queen for a night with her living room turning into a makeshift beauty salon and her friends getting all dolled up alongside her.

Donning a tiara and prom queen sash, Jerika was the woman of the hour complete with a fire department and police escort for the 28-seat Ford Excursion limousine that ferried her to her special night.

Along with California boy band New District showing up, YouTube star Richie Giese came to surprise Jerika, once he heard he was one of her favorites. Originally, he was simply going to video chat with the teen but decided to do her one better. “I thought, ‘Let’s just go all the way. I might as well make her day. Let’s just push this over the edge.” The pair danced and enjoyed a private chat afterward.

Though the crowd at times overwhelmed Jerika, who retreated outdoors for a breather a few times that night, it still served as a positive event, for both her and her friends. Childhood friend Mackenzie Falck says, “I know she’ll be with me. She’ll be an angel and she’ll look over me, because that’s what friends do, right?”

Jerika’s situation is undeniably sad, but her friends and family came together to give her an incredible party celebrating the beautiful life she lived. Although her time left on earth is short, she’s clearly making an impact and getting a chance to live out a few of her dreams before she’s gone. We are endlessly glad that she had that opportunity and wish strength for her and her love ones over the coming months.

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