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Posted June 14, 2006

A Touching Success Story Well Worth Reduplicating

Catholic high school students use prom night as chance to help others

By Gary Morton

Catholic News Service

WILMINGTON, Del. (CNS) -- Prom nights usually provide a chance for students to lavish attention on themselves, from glitzy gowns and tuxedos to special hairdos and limousines.

But this year, a student at St. Mark's High School in Wilmington did more than that. Andrea Davies turned the annual senior prom into a time to think about others by arranging for free limousine rides and dinners for five teens with mental disabilities who are friends with St. Mark's students through the statewide Blue-Gold program.

Blue-Gold is a Delaware program that matches high school athletes with people with disabilities for various activities.

"We wanted to make it a special night not just for the seniors and their dates, but for someone else, too," said Davies, a member of St. Mark's Blue-Gold Club.

So while the seniors and their dates celebrated at the prom, a group of Blue-Gold buddies and their guests enjoyed free dinner and limousine transportation.

The event, dubbed "Prime Night," took place May 26. Five Blue-Gold buddies gathered with their families and guests at St. Mark's and took limousine rides to restaurants on Wilmington's riverfront.

Forrie Brown ate dinner at Joe's Crab Shack with a friend, Holly Kaess; Joe Cruz, one of Brown's buddies from St. Mark's; and Brown's father, Bruce Sammons.

Riding in the limousine "was a little scary" at first, Brown told The Dialog, newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington. "I had never been in a limo before."

Caitlin Coughlan and her parents dined at Conley Ward's Steakhouse. Caitlin's mother, Ruth Coughlan, said she was overwhelmed by Davies' generosity. "Just the thought behind it is incredible," she said.

All the attention also made an impression on Caitlin. "I thought I was like someone famous. I will always remember this," she said.

Davies got the idea for the evening after she realized that the limousines the students rented for the prom would remain idle from the time they were dropped off until the drivers picked them up at the end of the evening.

She talked five riverfront restaurants into donating meals for up to four people; a florist donated a rose for each buddy and DND Limousine Service donated a limousine.

After delivering the seniors and their dates to the prom site, two white limousines drove to St. Mark's to pick up the five buddies and their guests. They took the five groups to their restaurants and returned later to pick them up and drive them back to St. Mark's. The drivers then returned to the prom location to pick up the students and go back to St. Mark's for an after-prom party.

Davies hopes Prime Night will become an annual event. "It would be cool if other schools do something like this," she said.