MINNEAPOLIS (CBS NEWS) — A special girl will attend prom this weekend in her mom’s Minnesota hometown.
Eleven-year-old Lydia Wahlstrom has a terminal disorder called Batten disease. Her grandpa wanted her to have the prom experience, so he asked her to be his date, CBS Minnesota reported.
“It’s one of those things that you can find joy in the midst of the storm,” Todd Wahlstrom, Lydia’s father, said.
From the dress to the shoes, the community has come together to make this an experience to remember.
“It’s great for her to have something to look forward to and be able to do little things that lead up to this bigger ball,” Todd said.
It started with a card that Lydia could feel.
“There’s one thing that Lydia knows and that’s grandpa loves her,” Laura Wahlstrom, Lydia’s mother, said.
On the inside, written in Braille, was an invitation from her grandfather, Pastor Paul Magelssen.
“He invited her to the ball and she just lit up,” Laura said.
Lydia and her 8-year-old brother, Drew, both have Batten disease, a rare and fatal neurological disease that begins with losing your eye sight and having seizures — and it only progresses.
“For my kids, the blindness was the first thing,” Laura said. “There’s cognitive decline. I’ve heard it compared to the effects it has on your body is similar to ALS.”
And that is why experiencing the prom now, in this way, is wonderfully powerful.
“It isn’t going to be an option for her to do in a few years, and we don’t know what that timeline is, so doing something like that right now that she’s capable of doing and have joy makes all the sense in the world,” Todd said.
Lydia’s fairytale is complete with dress that she says is part Cinderella, part Elsa from “Frozen.”
“She loves that we can feel the silver and the sequins and the beads,” Laura said.
When the Fosston community in northwestern Minnesota learned Lydia will attend their high school prom, the support only grew.
“And the family that pitched in, and suddenly this dress is affordable to us, and it has gone from there to a free hairdo and getting your nails done,” Laura told CBS Minnesota.
Someone else helped with Lydia’s headband and shoes.
“And they’re high heels, which is kind of a big deal,” Laura said.
It is an amount of kindness and generosity by friends and strangers that overwhelmed the Wahlstroms.
“It’s a great show of what this disease has brought about, because the disease is ugly and there’s not much good you can say about it,” Laura said. “But I think we can say that we have been blessed and can see such good things in community.”
Prom is this Saturday at Fosston High School. As word has continued to spread about Lydia attending, someone else donated a limo ride to the dance. And there will be a special meal prepared for the whole family.
A fund has been set up to help the Wahlstrom family. Click here to learn how.