Every year, as spring blossoms, high school halls buzz with excitement over the upcoming prom—a rite of passage for many teens.
Evelyn Araujo, a student at Oliver East Oswego High School in Illinois, shares this same excitement.
Despite the challenges posed by cerebral palsy, which leaves her nonverbal and reliant on a wheelchair, Evelyn’s anticipation for the dance is just as fervent as any of her peers.
Her condition has never been a barrier to forming friendships or participating in high school milestones.
Among Evelyn’s circle of friends is Tahj Oliver, a member of the school’s football team.
Their friendship, which began in their sophomore year, is proof of the inclusive spirit that thrives within their school community.
When Tahj heard about the special needs prom scheduled for April 2017, he saw an opportunity to deepen their bond.
With a surprise visit to Evelyn’s class, he asked her to be his date for the event.
Though she couldn’t respond with words, Evelyn’s elated body language left no doubt—she was overjoyed to accept.
Tahj, who is no stranger to the world of special needs through his family connections, was committed to ensuring that Evelyn’s prom experience was nothing short of spectacular.
One of the motivating factors to asking Evelyn to prom was that Tahj recognizes the importance of making sure everyone feels included – no matter what they look like.
He recounts the evening with a fondness that is palpable, “I went to her house and I brought her flowers and I put on her corsage. We drove to the prom together.”
His actions were not just about fulfilling a prom tradition; they were about honoring a friendship and creating a cherished memory.
The prom night was a dazzling affair with a masquerade theme that added an air of mystery and excitement.
Evelyn was the belle of the ball, her hair styled to perfection, donning a stunning green dress that complemented her vibrant personality.
Her smile, wide and infectious, was her most striking accessory, capturing the essence of her prom experience.
Selene Araujo, Evelyn’s mother, played the role of the proud and grateful parent to perfection.
With her camera in hand, she immortalized the moments of her daughter dancing with Tahj, and the touching scene as he serenaded Evelyn with an Adele song.
For Selene, these images were more than just keepsakes; they were proof of her daughter’s joy and the kindness that still exists in the world.
The special needs prom was such a success that it sparked a desire in Evelyn to attend the school’s general prom as well.
Her mother was supportive, recognizing the importance of these social milestones.
And when Evelyn asked Tahj to be her date again, he didn’t hesitate.
The anticipation for the second prom was evident in Evelyn’s demeanor—her constant smiles and spontaneous dance moves in the car were signs of pure excitement.
The night of the traditional prom was another opportunity for Evelyn to shine.
She danced with unbridled enthusiasm, surrounded by classmates who were captivated by her energy.
Tahj, ever the entertainer, took to the stage with dance moves that drew cheers from the crowd, making the evening even more memorable for Evelyn.
Tahj’s selfless act of friendship afforded Evelyn not one, but two prom experiences that she will treasure for a lifetime.
His willingness to go above and beyond for his friend is a heartwarming reminder of the profound impact of kindness and the enduring nature of true friendship.
The story of Tahj and Evelyn’s prom adventures is one that deserves to be shared far and wide.
It’s a narrative that celebrates inclusion, friendship, and the simple joys of teenage life.