Two young men escorted a special-needs high school student to prom when her mother requested someone “special” on Facebook.
Gabby Horner-Shepherd has Partial Trisomy 13, a chromosomal disorder with a reported 90 percent mortality rate before the age of 1. “When Gabby was born, the doctor opened a medical textbook and showed me a child autopsy, his only photo of a patient,” Shannon Horner-Shepherd tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Gabby was declared ‘incompatible with life.’”
At 21, Gabby is non-verbal and can display aggressive behavior. But she is also sweet and enthusiastic and enjoys zip-lining and hockey. With a ten-person team, including two educational assistants, she recently completed high school in her town of Port Dover, Ontario.
Shannon wanted her daughter to experience her June 1st prom. “My goal for Gabby is, her life should look as close as possible to a typical person,” the single mom of four, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She's sparkly and she loves to dance.”
Two weeks ago, Shannon did “something crazy” and found her daughter a prom date by making a video for Facebook. “My name is Gabby, I’m 21 years old, and I need a prom date,” Shannon spoke for Gabby in the video. “I need someone special who is willing to take me, because I have special needs.”
“My life’s mission since she came into this world 21 years ago has been to make sure that she is remembered by everyone she meets so that when the day comes that she’s no longer on this earth she has left an imprint on their souls,” wrote Shannon. “I would LOVE this prom to be one of those times where she is remembered by everyone whose lives she has touched in high school. And to truly make it the BEST NIGHT EVER for Gabby!”
Shannon tells Yahoo Lifestyle that making the video was like “filleting my soul.”
But 13,000 people viewed it and young, interested men started messaging the family.
One was a Saint Catharines, Ontario student named Zack Bowman, 21. “I respected Shannon and Gabby’s courage too much to ignore the post,” Bowman, who plays ice hockey at Brock University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Although Bowman had never met Gabby or Shannon before, he said, “It felt like fate.”
But Gabby had some choices — Jeremy Renton, a local police constable who coaches Gabby’s special-needs sledge hockey team, was also interested. “There’s no way I would let this girl go to prom alone,” Renton, 30, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I asked Shannon if I could come too.”
On prom night, both men picked up Gabby — Renton in full uniform and Bowman wearing a gray suit and carrying a floral corsage and matching boutonnieres for both men. Gabby wore a gray dress with blue beading and a taffeta skirt.
“When Gabby came outside, she lit up like a Christmas tree,” Shannon tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The threesome, Shannon, and Gabby’s assistants ate dinner at a restaurant and took photos by the lake, before driving to the dance.
Gabby and her dates danced all night, especially to songs by her favorite artist Ed Sheeran, long after other students had left.
But Gabby’s friendships didn’t end at prom. Renton continues to be a close family friend and Bowman is raising money on Facebook to help Gabby afford a service dog.
“I am not a crier but that night, I ‘ugly cried,’” Shannon tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It was perfect. These guys mean so much to me.”
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