Jerika Bolen, 14, of Appleton, Wis., has spinal muscular atrophy, which destroys nerve cells in her brain and spinal cord. She’s in constant pain and it’s only going to get worse.
So this month she decided that she will move in to hospice while she can still make her own decisions, unhook her ventilator and die.
But first she wanted to have a big party — a prom, she called it.
So friends and strangers from around the country showed up on Friday night to throw it for her, USA Today reports.
Richie Giese, one of Jerika’s favorite YouTube celebrities, dropped in as the biggest surprise of the night. The electro pop performer, who goes by the name Social Repose, flew in from Washington, D.C., and arrived at the hall in full costume, which includes a feather headdress and white face paint. They shared a dance together and later stepped out into the quiet to talk privately.
Giese said he, too, was inspired by Jerika’s story. When learning she was a fan who had hoped to one day video chat with him, he knew he could do better.
“I thought, ‘Let’s just go all the way. I might as well make her day,’” Giese said. “Let’s just push this over the edge.”
Other visitors to Friday’s prom said they simply felt a need to be there to support Jerika.
Margaret Norby, a junior at Appleton’s Lawrence University, arrived with her boyfriend, Jackson Straughan, an LU senior. Norby had earlier reached out to the Bolens asking how she might help and had agreed to purchase corsages for the occasion — though the florist later told her they were on the house.
Norby said she was moved by Jerika’s attitude in spite of her heartbreaking condition.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” she said. “She has a situation and an outlook that not everybody has. She has wisdom, and she’s not apologetic about who she is.”
Now that the party is over, her mother, who says the prom planning took her mind off her daughter’s coming death, is facing the reality of next month.
“I have to be strong for her,” she said.