Special prom night for suburban teen

May 15, 2009 8:19:27 PM PDT
This is prom night for seniors at Riverside-Brookfield High School. Most students have just one date for the prom. But one senior has two dates for tonight.It's difficult to communicate with 14-year-old Mary Carole McGovern. Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder has left her with no ability to speak and limited muscle control. But when senior Nate Burau invited her to the prom a few weeks ago by bringing these flowers and note to her in class she had no problem letting him know her answer was yes.

"The note had a yes and no and Nate knows Mary Carole does an eye gaze to pick her choices," said Susanna Vogel, speech pathologist.

Mary Carole in fact has two dates for the prom. Nate is also bringing Stephanie Castle who has looked forward to senior prom since she was a freshman. And she says sharing her date makes is more special.

"I thought it was the nicest thing," said Stephanie Castle, Riverside-Brookfield High School.

The prom is on the Spirit of Chicago boat which docks at Navy Pier. It promises to be a memorable night for everyone but especially Mary Carole and her parents.

"For Stephanie and Nate, both of them to be okay with it and so open and really not think of it as any big deal, it just touches my heart," said Michele McGovern, mother.

Mary Carole is in a special classroom for special needs students at Riverside-Brookfield. But her teachers say the other students there routinely drop in and help make the students feel part of the school. Nate has been dropping by the class several times a day all year and he says inviting Mary Carole to prom just seemed natural.

"Everybody is making a big deal out of it. I thought it was just a good idea," said Nate Burau.

Mary Carole's class agrees. She modeled for them the next day and they helped her choose the dress for the big dance.

"When we put the dress on her, she had this huge smile. It was very deliberated and she felt, you could tell she felt very pretty," said Vogel.

There will be no dancing since she is confined to the wheelchair. But that matters little. This is Mary Carole's night. The other students say she fits right in.

Mary Carole and Nate boarded a bus at the high school on Friday evening and headed to Navy Pier for the prom. Her parents say they have lifted her curfew for tonight but they have no worries.


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