North Texas

Prom Planned for All Special Needs Juniors and Seniors

There is an invitation going out to special needs teenagers in North Texas and beyond. A prom event, from the dress to the dinner, that's part of an effort to ensure juniors and seniors have a night to remember.

High school junior Shannan Cantrell has never gone to prom. She has opted to not attend her school’s dance this year.

“I’m planning on waiting for my senior year to go to prom at my school,” she said.

But the 18-year-old spent Thursday morning picking out a dress. “I’m really excited about it,” said Cantrell.

She’s excited because there is a prom coming up that is as special as she is.

“Just comfortable around people that are sort of like you,” she said. “It’s just basically a lot of special needs kids like me just having fun, not worrying about people looking at you weird like: 'What are you doing?' And just being yourself.”

Mesquite’s Elk’s Lodge along Gus Thomasson will host the Prom Night on Saturday, May 19 from 7 p..m. to 10 p.m.

The dance is for students from “any place, doesn’t matter, homeschooled, any district,” according to the event’s organizer.

Linda Cox and her husband have been trying to put on a prom especially for special needs juniors and seniors in Mesquite for two years.

“Something we just want to do from our heart,” she said.

This year, she lined up the location and other donated items but there was little interest in the community.

Until recently, only seven students had signed up to attend.

Cox feared they would have to cancel the prom saying it would not be fun for the small group.

But now, there are 21 students and Cox says the event will go on as planned.

Students will have dinner and each will received a boutonniere or corsage. A prom king and queen will be selected. Everything will be free of charge.

“Prom is very important part of their life, their childhood,” said Cox. “You think about prom years before I got to go to prom and some of these kids are so disappointed because they don’t want to go. This is going to be their prom. This is for them.”

Shannon’s mom, Tabitha Gardner, says her autistic daughter likely wouldn’t feel as comfortable attending her school’s prom even though she is able to go.

“They dance more openly and freer, I guess you can say and funner and she likes to do that instead of people pointing and judging,” said Gardner.

“They don’t have to worry about ‘Will I look funny out there on the dance floor?’ Dance like no one’s watching,” said Cox.

A couple dozen dresses have been donated for the event.

They will be given out in May at Sharing Life Community Outreach.

Registration ends April 30.

The goal is to have 100 students attend Prom Night.

Monetary donations are still needed.

Plus-size dresses and tuxedos are also needed.

Fore more information, contact Linda Cox at

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