Photo courtesy of Jerika Bolen Facebook
APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) – Arriving in style, 14-year-old Jerika Bolen in a stretch limo was escorted by first responders to her own personal prom in Appleton Friday night.
The Appleton community came together to celebrate the young girl’s life as her family and friends are preparing to say good-bye.
Jerika lives with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a condition that damages her muscles and keeps her in constant pain.
After living with the disease for years, the wheelchair-bound Jerika has decided this summer will be her last. Next month she plans to be taken off the ventilator that helps her breathe.
But first she wanted one last dance.
It’s bittersweet saying good-bye — even with a night of dancing, lights and fun.
Everyone at the Grand Meridian knows what the future holds for Jerika, but instead of tears there were smiles and a celebration of a girl who’s inspired many with her story.
“It makes my heart explode,” Jerika said. “It’s so crazy that people want to come for little ol’ me. I’m nothing.”
No one here thinks that.
Jerika has captured the hearts of everyone in the room. Even through her pain, she finds a way to bring joy to others, especially her mother, Jen, who says the toughest thing is knowing she’ll soon be letting go of her little girl.
“We’ve bawled before and I said, ‘Jerika, I love you that much that I will not let you suffer. If it’s that bad then it’s OK. Mom will find a way to be OK,’” Jen Bolen said.
“We kind of just like forget about it and do what we do, every day,” Jerika said.
Jerika was reunited with old friends Friday.
Former classmate Chloe Lappen said, “It’s heartbreaking. I’ve cried a lot, and I’ll really miss her because she was really close to me. I don’t want to cry in front of her and ruin the night for her. I want her to have the best night of her life and remember this forever.”
Everyone here will remember a night full of love and moments that will last a lifetime.
“I see the light. It’s in my daughter’s eyes,” Jen remarked.
It’s hard to describe the mood here, because as happy as everyone is to bring a smile to Jerika’s face, the reality is they won’t see that smile for much longer. But those feelings are for another day as the celebration rolled into the night.
The family set up a post office box for people who want to send well-wishes: