Over 1,000 People Turn Out for Prom of Wisconsin Teen Choosing to Die

jerika-bolen

They came from California, Florida, Indiana and points in-between. A YouTube star made a surprise appearance, members of a favorite boy band poured their hearts out in a video message and flowers arrived from around the world.

All for a 14-year-old girl from Appleton, Wis., they had never met.

Jerika Bolen has spinal muscular atrophy type 2. The disease destroys nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle activity, and a lack of movement causes the muscles to waste away. Jerika has never walked, and she said her pain is a seven on a scale of one to 10 on her best days. She can speak and has some movement of her hands, but the disease — and the pain — are only going to get worse.

Earlier this summer, with the support of her ever-dedicated mother, Jen, she decided that, while she can still make her desires known, she will be put in Hospice care, unhook her ventilator and die.

But first, she wanted her last wish — a prom. Dubbed “J’s Last Dance,” she took to the dance floor Friday night as a steady stream of well-wishers flooded into the Grand Meridian ballroom in Appleton to say goodbye to a girl whose attitude in the face of heartbreaking misery has been inspirational.

As she soaked in Friday’s hoopla, her hair dyed a shiny blue and wearing sparkling lipstick to complement her gorgeous greenish blue gown, Jerika said she was thankful but a bit perplexed as to why people have been so deeply moved by her story, which was first reported by The Post-Crescent.

“It’s awesome,” she said of Friday’s party. “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.”

The hall was decorated in lime green and black, Jerika’s favorite colors. The crowd overflowed the hall, which holds 1,000 people. A well-stocked candy buffet set up for guests was cleaned out in the first 90 minutes.

Friday was set aside for happiness, and the work to accomplish that goal had begun long before the disco ball started spinning above the DJ station.

The living room in the Bolen house, which Jerika shares with her mother, Jen Bolen, became a makeshift beauty salon on Friday afternoon as Jerika, her mom and several friends had their hair and makeup done.

Jerika wore a tiara and later added a prom queen sash to the ensemble.

The evening was momentous from the second Jerika emerged from the house.

Police and firefighters gathered at the curb and applauded as she maneuvered her power wheelchair to the red carpet and a 28-seat Ford Excursion limousine.

Jerika, friends and family were given an escort fit for presidents with a motorcade of 17 squad cars and a fire truck, all with lights flashing and sirens sounding.

Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas stepped into the house to offer his best wishes before Jerika set off.

“We’re just blessed to be able to help out,” Thomas said. “It’s an honor for us, and what an amazing young lady. She makes you appreciate what you have. She makes you think about using your time wisely. She’s making an impact.”

Multiple television crews greeted Jerika at the banquet hall. Floral bouquets set up on a table inside the Grand Meridian lobby had been ordered from New York, Washington, Georgia and Kuwait, among other distant locales. U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble sent flowers.

John Current, along with his wife and daughter, drove from Napa, California — a drive of more than 31 hours and 2,000 miles — to celebrate the life of a girl they hadn’t met before Friday night. They brought a stuffed animal as a gift for Jerika, a thank you, they said, for the way she touched their hearts with her bravery and attitude.

“It’s inspiring, it’s sad and emotional,” Current said. “It’s the whole thing. She just captivated me.”

The long drive was worth it to see her smile, and “out there on the dance floor looking like she’s living life,” he said.

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SOURCE: Jim Collar
The (Appleton, Wis.) Post-Crescent