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Dancing the night away

Young Life Capernaum Ministries gives kids with special needs a chance to go to the prom

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Tigard High's Lauren Doan, Mitchel Truair and Natalie Clark enjoy the evening at the fourth-annual Young Life Capernaum Ministries prom. Amy Holmes was walking to Safeway to pick up her son’s allergy medicine Friday evening as he was getting ready for the fourth-annual Young Life Capernaum Prom. She was at the intersection of Third Street and Evergreen Road when she got hit by a car, the impact severely bruising her left side.

But Holmes says that while an ambulance was rushing her to the hospital, “the community pulled together and helped my son get dressed for prom.” After all, Lake Oswego High junior David Holmes had a date that night with LOHS senior Marin Anne Motylewski.

“There are so many people that helped him get ready for the prom,” Holmes says. “Some were people that I knew, like Stacy and Steve Spence, who I want to thank. But (there were) also people I don’t even know in the community who were assisting him, knowing that he has special needs. There were people that set my son’s mind at ease as he was watching through his bedroom window (as I was) put on a stretcher in the ambulance, not knowing or understanding what was happening to me.”

Fortunately, Holmes had no broken bones and is recovering. And David was among the group of Capernaum kids who got to dance the night away on Friday.

“It was fun, me and Marin dancing,” he says, “and hanging out with my friends.”SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sarah Pritchard and Dallin Hockanson embrace during their Friday-night prom at River West Church in Lake Oswego.

Young Life is a Christian organization for youth, and Capernaum is an offshoot for people with disabilities. Colleen Kendall, director of Lake Oswego Young Life Capernaum Ministries, says the name Capernaum comes from a part of the Bible where a man with disabilities wanted to meet Jesus but couldn’t get in the door, so his friends cut a hole in the roof for him.

“Capernaum is helping our friends access Jesus,” Kendall says.

Kendall issued invitations throughout the state and even in neighboring Washington to any students with disabilities who would like to join in the prom she launched four years ago. She started the event because she heard about a Capernaum group in Arizona that had a prom and because many students don’t attend prom at their school.

“In the first year, we had parents crying because they’ve never had kids go to the prom,” Kendall says. “Many of our kids do not go to the prom. We wanted our kids to be typical; we wanted them to experience the things typical high school kids experience.”

The event is modified to make it more comfortable for people with special needs, with brighter lights than “at a typical prom,” no strobe lights and a photo booth designed so that people in wheelchairs can roll right in. Local parents Brad and Jeri Parrott donated the photo booth and the disc jockey to make the event happen.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kelly Muldoon and Katie Carlsen from Lake Oswego beam during the Young Life Capernaum Ministries prom.

Kendall says Nothing Bundt Cakes in Tualatin helped out with the desserts; Lake Oswego Garden Club made corsages and boutonnieres; Laurie Grogan (Kendall’s friend) donated all the decorations; Lake Oswego’s Greg and Jenifer McWade offered financial support; and River West Church in Lake Oswego didn’t charge Capernaum for using the venue.

The theme was “Around the World,” and decorations included a model Eiffel Tower, a phone booth, a model of the Statue of Liberty, suitcases, light posts and a world map for photos. Ninety-five kids showed up, and 48 volunteers helped make the prom a success, along with at least a dozen junior high helpers.

Lake Oswego Young Life Capernaum Ministries has a core group of two dozen teen volunteers who help special needs members succeed, not only at events like the prom but also at Capernaum Camp. They hail from Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools, as well as other area schools. Among the supporters are Lake Oswego High junior Emily Zinsmeister and Lakeridge junior Alyson Pavlicek. SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lake Oswego High junior David Holmes and his prom date, LOHS senior Marin Anne Motylewski, pose for a photo in front of a map, part of the events Around the World decorations.

“It’s a great organization. I know the volunteers love it, and the kids love it,” Zinsmeister says. “It’s a great environment to be in.”

She says prom is probably the highlight of a whole year of Capernaum events, and Pavlicek says everyone had a lot of fun on Friday.

“My favorite part was the dancing, because you get to see kids totally be themselves, and that was the coolest thing,” she says.

As for Amy Holmes, she has some “wonderful pictures” of David and his date at prom. And David has some wonderful memories.

“If you would have seen him dancing and running around,” Kendall says, “he absolutely had a good time.”SUBMITTED PHOTO - Groups of general education and special education kids spent time together throughout the night, including this group of Lake Oswego kids (with a friend from Canby).

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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For more information about Lake Oswego Young Life Capernaum Ministries, visit http://www.lakeoswego.younglife.org/Pages/lake-oswego-capernaum.aspx, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-349-4143.