Three weeks ago, he was barred from attending his senior prom because of a school absence policy and a missing medical release form.
On Friday night, Jared Springer was crowned prom king.
“Now, just to be clear, who here votes for Jared Springer as prom king?” the master of ceremonies yelled into a microphone as Springer and his date, Gigi Greene, waited in the center of a spotlight.
A loud roar erupted from the almost 700-person strong crowd surrounding the duo, as Springer looked around with a huge grin on his face.
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“For the first time in the history of any election,” the host said, “it’s 100 percent agreed!”
Springer, who collapsed at school in 2014 because of a brain tumor and now uses a wheelchair, was told by Lucia Mar Unified School District representatives earlier this month that he would not be allowed to attend the Arroyo Grande High School prom with his classmates on May 7 because a broken hip had kept him out of classes for three weeks and because there were several procedures the family needed to complete to make an exception for Springer.
The district has since apologized for the decision, saying, “We failed to communicate this in a timely way, and we failed to provide a path that could have made Jared’s dream come true.”
Amid the backlash from a widely shared Facebook post from his parents, many in the community united to organize a replacement prom for Springer. (He was also invited to the San Luis Obispo High School and other local high school proms.)
Brighten A Corner Ministry planned Friday night’s private prom at Mountainbrook Church in San Luis Obispo — the same place Springer’s missed prom took place — and invited upperclassmen from Arroyo Grande, Central Coast New Tech, Coastal Christian, Mission Prep, Nipomo and San Luis Obispo high schools.
We’ve been looking at it as, ‘We’re going to rewrite this story; we’ve got a chance to give it a happy ending.’
Jocelyn Brennan, Brighten a Corner Ministry member
The organization initially planned to sell 525 tickets to the event, which were available through the participating high schools and online for $5. They sold out within three hours.
“We of course wanted a big turnout for him,” said Jocelyn Brennan, a Brighten A Corner Ministry member and Springer family friend. “We didn’t expect this. They went so fast. People were just unable to get online fast enough to get them.”
Because of the intense interest, the group decided to offer 150 additional tickets to the dance, this time for $20 a piece. Those also sold out.
All proceeds from the tickets will go to the Springer family to help pay for his medical expenses, Brennan said.
$5,625 How much Brighten a Corner Ministry raised from ticket sales, which it will donate to the Springer family.
The prom was entirely funded through donations from people around San Luis Obispo County. From the 150 volunteers helping set it all up to the party bus that picked up and dropped off Springer, the entire dance became a reality thanks to the kindness of the community, Brennan said.
“It’s an unforgettable night,” she said. “Not just for (Springer) but for all of us, as well, because we get to be involved in it.”
As the group planned the prom, Brennan said she made sure to connect with Springer and ask what he would want in the special event. He had two simple desires: For the dance to be pink-and-black themed — like the outfit he had intended to wear to the Arroyo Grande prom — and to have tri-tip for dinner beforehand.
Both of those wishes came true.
Springer and a few hundred other students ate tri-tip provided by Old San Luis BBQ Co. at a special dinner at Mountainbrook Church on Friday before the scheduled dance. He was surrounded by pink and black decorations.
At 8:30 p.m., when the dance was scheduled to start, students from across the county poured into the building. Even at the front entrance, the volume was intense, with happy shrieks and shouts as friends walked in wearing their finest prom outfits and people snagged snacks from the tables and booths lining the walls.
In the main room, where the dancing was taking place, the din escalated. Students danced, tossed off their shoes, took photos at a photo booth and snapped pics on their phones — all at top volume. And in the center of it all was Springer, who was being pushed around the dance floor by his date.
Even at the beginning of the night, Springer was constantly surrounded by teenagers taking pictures with him, cheering him on and dancing with him. When the time came to crown him prom king, Springer looked around in awe as the crowd began to chant:
“Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared!”
As state Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian placed the purple velvet crown on his head, Springer looked down and smiled. A few seconds later, the music started again, and he went right back to enjoying the prom he almost didn’t get to have.