Special Needs Mutual Experiences a Prom to Remember

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 1 May 2015

Prom-goers enjoy a group dance at the April 16 event hosted by the Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual.  Photo by Jason Swensen.

Article Highlights

  • The special needs Mutual prom was held on April 16.
  • Each of the special needs individuals works with a special high school-age friend nearby.
  • The Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual draws participants from eight local stakes.

HERRIMAN, UTAH

Ask a group of teenagers to list what makes prom so special.

Some will say the dancing. For others, it’s the elegant dress, the hair done just right, or the fun photos with friends to be immediately posted on social media sites.

Such a dance offers a young person a glimpse of what it’s like to live like a queen (or a king)—even for just an hour or two.

Dozens of Latter-day Saint youth from the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley recently enjoyed a prom in all its glory. There was good food, fancy clothes, dancing, flowers, formal photos, and even limousine rides.

But this prom was different.

Youth from Utah's Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual enjoy playing games at the April 16 prom. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Members of the Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual pose for prom photos. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Prom-goers take their seats in a stretch limousine during the April 16 prom hosted by the Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Prom-goers enjoy the food spread at the April 16 Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Young women from the Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual enjoy a limo ride during April 16 prom activities. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Prom-goers of all ages enjoy a dance hosted by the Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Many of the youth dancing to the music or playing games at the meetinghouse in Herriman belong to the Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual. They deal each day with various physical and mental disabilities. But each relishes opportunities to make friends, enjoy typical Mutual activities, and, most important, build their testimonies and grow in the gospel.

Each one of the special needs individuals works with a special friend—a high school-age young man or young woman from a nearby traditional Mutual group. The Southwest Region draws Mutual participants from eight local stakes.

“It was great to see everyone here and having such a good time,” said Bishop Mark Tenney of the Alpine View Ward, Herriman Utah South Stake.

Brooks Clark serves as the first counselor in the Young Men presidency of the Southwest Region Special Needs Mutual. He’s also the father of Celeste, one of the special needs Mutual youth.

“The special needs Mutual makes a difference in so many people’s lives,” he said.

Brother Clark was a busy man at the prom. When he wasn’t hanging decorations above the dance floor before the start of the dance, he was helping young people, including those in wheelchairs, find seats inside one of the limos. But he allowed himself a few moments during the evening to watch his daughter experience her first prom.

“These sort of activities help her feel more fulfilled. … She’s made so many friends at Mutual,” he said.

The special needs Mutual prom was truly a community event. Several businesses contributed items to help make the evening complete. Each prom-goer wore a donated corsage or boutonniere. A limousine service provided luxury rides worthy of Hollywood A-listers. And local eateries volunteered to cater the event.

Even a professional photographer was on hand to make sure everyone in the Mutual went home with an official prom photo and a few lifelong memories.

“I was overwhelmed with the extent of the support,” said Young Women president Lori Wilson.