Senior prom: a night high school students spend dancing, laughing, chatting and eating with their friends. Some are lucky enough to be there with a special guy or girl.That’s the experience Alpha Xi Delta’s Programs Vice President Jennifer Huffman’s younger brother, Thomas, had at his prom last month — only he had 16 dates.
Thomas has level-one autism, which prevented him from enjoying dances throughout high school. So when Huffman’s parents told her that her brother didn’t have a prom group with less than a week before the big night, she got the idea to ask her sorority sisters if they would be interested in being his dates. Alpha Xi Delta’s philanthropy is Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization.
Sixteen members of the sorority attended Lima Central Catholic’s prom April 25.
“It was a complete surprise,” Huffman said. “He had no idea we were coming.”After surprising Thomas at his home in Lima, the girls took numerous pictures with him. Then after dinner they escorted Thomas to the dance, where the school allowed them to join him for the first song of the evening. The song was “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from Thomas’s favorite movie, “The Lion King” — a film he likes so much that he can recite the whole script in 12 different languages.
Each girl took a turn dancing with Thomas during the song.
“He’s never really done something like this before, so I just thought it was really cool that everyone drove down for him,” Huffman said. “It made it a really special time for him.”
After the sorority girls left, Thomas was awarded prom king. While receiving his crown, “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” another classic tune from Thomas’s favorite film, was played.
“It’s my favorite memory of Alpha Xi Delta so far,” said Gabrielle Radford, a sophomore majoring in exercise science and member of the sorority. “It was so great standing in that circle dancing with him; we were all starting to cry, and he sang every single word to [‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’]. It was just such a great night.”
Thomas graduated May 9. He plans to attend the Lima branch of Ohio State University this fall.