Childhood friends with Down syndrome to attend prom together

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SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. (AP) — It's a scene right out of the movies: A boy arrives at a girl's house, decked out in shirt and tie, nervously clutching a bouquet of flowers, to ask her to the school dance. It's what the girl has been waiting for and she excitedly accepts the offer.

This scene played out recently in South Windsor, when Brendan Puiia surprised Alex LaVigne at her home to ask her to the junior prom.

The only difference is that both Alex and Brendan have Down syndrome.

"I was very surprised," Alex said. "I wasn't expecting it at all but I was pumped to go to prom with him."

Alex and Brendan, a sophomore and junior, respectively, at South Windsor High School, have known each other their whole lives. Their families' paths crossed when they were babies and their moms, SuEllen Robitaille and Stacey Puiia, have stayed close ever since.

"When you have kids with special needs, there's an understanding and bond other people don't understand," Puiia said. "I think that's something we have. It's really simple. It's nothing that's complicated."

Puiia and Robitaille, both said as parents of children with Down syndrome, it's accepted their children won't always share the same experiences as other kids. Not wanting her son to miss out on a quintessential high school event, Puiia said she was initially thinking about asking Brendan's 22-year-old sister, Jessica, to take him to the prom.

That's when she thought of Alex, she said.

"I said, 'Wait a second, Alex goes to school with him. She's the perfect person for me to ask'," Puiia said.

Puiia called Robitaille, who then pitched the idea to Alex. She wanted to find a way to make the occasion special.

"I said, 'Well, that's great, but Brendan will come over and ask her properly'," Puiia said. "I didn't want the invitation to be between the parents. I wanted him to ask her like any other boy would ask a girl to go to prom."

So Puiia and her daughter recruited some of Alex's cheerleader friends— Alex is on the high school's varsity cheer squad —to take part in the plan. Last Sunday, Brendan arrived at Alex's house, dressed in a white collared shirt and purple tie, holding a big bouquet of yellow lilies.

Alex was kept in the dark about the promposal, so she said the excitement was running high when she walked out her front door to see six of her friends on the lawn. The girls did a cheer with signs to spell out, "Prom?" and the last poster read, "Alex, will you go with me?"

Before Brendan could even ask her himself, Alex exclaimed, "Yes, I would love to go to the prom with you," and stretched out her arms for a hug.

Alex was so excited that she got her prom dress that night— a short, dark blue ombre dress with plenty of sparkles.

Robitaille said, "For me, it's a big rite of passage for any high schooler. It's so sweet. (Stacey and I) both know our children are included in school, but outside of school, not so much. It's just the reality of it. It's just amazing to watch your child hit a milestone and get to be a part of it with someone they've known their whole life."

Puiia said, "They just want to be involved like everybody else. Them going to prom together is like any other typical teenage boy and girl going to prom."

Alex is happy with the promposal. "It was 100 percent awesome," she said. "I was happy."


Information from: Hartford Courant,

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