Terminally ill Appleton teen celebrates life at prom

Posted at 10:31 PM, Jul 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-24 15:50:40-04

Jerika Bolen's story has touched and inspired people around the world.

The 14-year-old from Appleton suffers from a rare disease, type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, causing her to live in pain every day.

"I'm always 8-10 on pain," Jerika explained.

Earlier this summer she made a difficult decision, choosing to go off the ventilator that keeps her alive next month.

"Very tough, because we've talked about it before," said her mother Jen. "I kind of put it off and tried everything else in the meantime."

However, before that day comes, Jerika had one last wish: her own prom.

Her wish was granted Friday, but little did she or her family know that this prom would turn into the event of a lifetime for Jerika.

"It makes my heart explode," she said. "It's so crazy that people want to come for little old me."

After Jerika's story was shared worldwide online, support began pouring in for the incredibly brave teen. Originally, her mom was unsure if they would be able to fill the room at the Grand Meridian in Appleton.

After about a half hour of the prom on Friday, there was hardly any room to move because of the number of people.

"I thought it was going to be low key but this is awesome," said Jerika.

"I've seen a response I've never seen in 13 years of being in this business," said Sue Lamers, event coordinator for the Grand Meridian.

Jerika rode to her prom in a limo, escorted by the Appleton Police and Fire Departments. The room was decorated in lime green and black, with candy, custom cupcakes, and other donated food for guests.

Most importantly for Jerika - the dance floor was packed.

"It's so bittersweet because it's such a happy occasion for such a sad reason," Lamers said.

It was a difficult night for friends and family.

"I just really want to support her through all of this," said Jerika's close friend Avianna Akers. "It is really scary to hear her, that she's not going to go longer, but at least she's not going to be in any pain anymore."

For Jerika, the night was a perfect celebration of a life spent inspiring others.