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South Valley Journal

From Student to Princess: Prom Arrives at Kari Sue

Jun 15, 2016 09:10AM ● By Tori La Rue

Allie Chandler dances with her father, Richard Chandler, and a Riverton High School student in her blue formal dress at Kari Sue’s annual dance. – Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Katie Chandler said she never thought she’d see her daughter go to prom. At 2 years old, Allie was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, a genetic mutation that affects brain development. She began to regress in motor and verbal skills until she stopped talking altogether. 

“When that happened, my dreams for her changed,” Katie said. “You just don’t think of them as being able to have all the same experiences as they would have had otherwise.”

But on May 3, Allie, now 16, took to the dance floor at Kari Sue Hamilton School in a blue, floor-length, gown and her favorite pair of old boots. She smiled and danced with peers her age from Kari Sue Hamilton School and Riverton High School as the DJ played the chicken dance song, Village People’s “YMCA,” Abba’s “Dancing Queen” and other tunes.

“It’s just an unexpected miracle,” Katie said. “I assumed her chances for this kind of thing were gone, so I was just blown away. There she is in a Cinderella dress.”

This year, the owners of Bling It On, a prom dress rental shop in Riverton, donated a dress to Allie and other interested secondary student to wear and keep. The donation was organized by Amelia Maynard, a peer leadership tutor at Riverton High School.

During one of the peer tutors’ weekly trips to Kari Sue, Amelia heard about the annual dance and said she knew what she could do to make it a memorable experience for the students. Her mother, Alysia Maynard, and sister, Mariah Smith, own Bling It On, so she asked them if they would be willing to donate dresses. 

“My sister just said, ‘I’d love to do that. Tell me how,’” Amelia said. “That’s when I started to figure it all out.”  

Amelia and her sister sent fliers out to the Kari Sue students’ parents explaining that they’d like to donate dresses. The form had a place for the families to fill out what size, color and style of dress they were interested in having. Then Amelia and Smith brought about 80 dresses to the school for the girls to try on one by one. 

“One girl picked a dress that didn’t even fit her because she loved it so much,” Amelia said. “She just screamed when we told her she was beautiful and started jumping up and down. Other girls were just smiling or hugging. I got teary eyed once, but I was trying to hold it together.” 

Bling it On Donated about 30 dresses in all. The girls took their dresses home a couple weeks before Kari Sue’s prom, and Katie said Allie couldn’t stop staring at her dress as it hung on the closet door.

“When she got to wear it, she was really excited and smiled and sobbed,” Katie said. “When I put it on her, she got this sort of wistful look on her face, like she understood what kind of an amazing opportunity this was for her.” 

Amelia and the other peer tutors attended the prom and danced with the upperclassman at Kari Sue Hamilton School. Kari Sue Hamilton, the person for whom the school is named, also made an appearance at the dance, and for two hours, the students grooved to the music. 

“Prom is a huge part of my life, and getting to share that with Kari Sue just makes it even better,” Amelia said. “This is something that I will take with me forever.”