TWIN FALLS — Gracie Christensen didn’t wait to get past the front doors to start dancing. She’s good at it too. She dances freely, not hindered by any fears of looking silly. When she dances it can only be described as unadulterated fun.
It’s one of her three favorite things to do: she sings, blows bubbles and dances. Right now, she is showing the world that, yes, she loves to dance.
Warm string lights, laughs and pop music filled the 360 Event Center as it was transformed Saturday into a place where happily ever afters seemed obtainable for a few hours.
Attendees at the all-ages special needs prom wore their finest dresses and sharpest suits as they bounced from tables where their friends and families sat, posed for photos and grabbed concessions. But it was on the dance floor where everyone showed they were taking in the night.
Some were taking it slow. Emma Goemmer and Jesse Carpenter were in a near dance together. Despite the high energy song playing, they stayed in their own world.
“The prom has been fun,” Carpenter said. “It’s more fun since I started dancing with her.”
Just like every other prom, there were wallflowers. The few who prefer to observe or chat. Sometimes it just takes a while to work up the courage to dance. Leona King helped her son, Hunter King, ease into the dance. The lights, the sound can all be overwhelming. Hunter was just excited at the prospect of the cupcake that he got to eat while spending time with his mom.
Some family members teared up just seeing the prom. Ame Spriggs cried when she saw her son Aiden Linch at the dance. She cried when she saw a family friend dancing. She prepared herself to cry a few more times before the night would end.
“There’s not a whole lot in Twin for special needs kids,” Spriggs said. “I hope this happens again. They deserve this.”
The event was the result of Twin Falls High School senior Dakota Horton’s senior project. The senior project is a high school graduation requirement that has students contribute to the community, academic challenge or pursue their future career. The projects must include at least 40 hours of hands-on work. Horton said that she has put over 100 hours into fundraising for this prom.
“The special needs community is widespread without many things to do,” Horton said.
J.D. Davis, Horton’s adviser, overlooks the senior project and gave guidance.
He said that Horton was focused on her project and has been working on it since the start of the school year.
“This is one of the coolest projects a student has tackled in a while,” Davis said. “This is a project near and dear to her heart.”
Horton has three siblings with special needs. Her parents, Jessica and Jeff Horton, said that the lack of events for their children is hard to navigate. The parents, with tears in their eyes, say they are astonished that their daughter put this event on.
“We’re hoping that this continues,” Jessica said. “The turnout is so much bigger than we expected and this is only its first year.”
Back on the dance floor, Christensen was blowing bubbles. Each bubble she blew seemed to capture and hold reflections from the lights surrounding the dance floor. She was eager to share her bubbles with any dancer near her.
“Try not to blow them in anyone’s face,” her father, Kirk Christensen, said.
She smiled at her dad and assured him that she wasn’t doing that. He waved it off and the two danced the night away.
“So much of the time these individuals are left out,” Kirk Christensen said. “To open things up to them, it means the world.”