Ross Abraham always wants to be included in activities and events.
“He’s a fun-loving kid with a big heart,” said his mother, Ann Abraham. “And no matter what anyone is doing at school or at home, he always says 'Me too', meaning he also wants to do those things.”
“I should have named him ‘Me too’,” she joked.
So it was only natural that Ross, a junior at Minneota High School, would say “Me too” about going to prom this year.
The big question looming for Ann and her husband Rod was who Ross would ask to be his rom date.
“We wanted to make sure it would be someone we felt confident would say ‘yes’ because we didn’t want to set Ross up for failure,” Ann said. “I want him to succeed and I want him to have all the opportunities that other kids have.”
The Abrahams knew that the young lady Ross would ask to prom had to be a caring and compassionate person with a heart of gold.
The reason for that is because Ross was born with Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability.
“He deserves to be happy, just like anyone else,” said Ann. “The only thing different about Ross and anyone else is his number of chromosomes. He’s a very happy, loving child who always says please and thank you.”
Because Ann knows Barb Knutson, a paraprofessional at the school that has worked with Ross, she inquired about whether or not Barb’s daughter, Laura, would be interested in going to prom with her son.
“The Knutsons are a great family,” said Ann. “Barb checked with Laura and then later texted me back that she would go with Ross if he asked her.”
For Ross’s “prom-posal”, he brought a poster to school in late January that read: “IN ALL THE WORLD I CHOOSE U! … PROM?” and presented it to Laura along with a globe.
Much to Ross’s delight, Knutson accepted his invite.
“On a Monday morning, I walked into school like a normal day,” Laura recalled. “After I put my things into my locker, I turned around and saw Ross holding a poster and an inflatable globe. “There were about 20 kids watching all of this happen. I told Ross ‘yes’ and gave him a hug.”
Laura said she never hesitated about going to prom with Ross and doesn’t consider him someone with a disability.
“I have known Ross since preschool. He is just like any other high school boy,” she insisted. “Ross is funny, nice, caring, and a sweetheart. He is very well-liked by everyone.
“I knew prom would be a blast, and Ross would make it worthwhile and extra special. I was proud to have the honor of being Ross’s date."
Ross got his tuxedo fitting done at Mr. Cool’s Clothing in Marshall; his bowtie matching Knutson’s blue and silver dress.
“He had so much fun getting measured,” said Ann. “And they were so helpful there. His tux fit him perfectly.”
Because Ross does not drive, his father Rod filled in as chauffeur for the day, driving the couple in his Chevy Silverado truck.
When Ross first saw Laura on the day of prom, his face lit up.
“Ross had the biggest smile on his face when he saw me for the first time in my dress,” Laura noted. “Every time I got into his truck, he had to open the door for me and grab the step stool because it was a big step to get into the truck.
“He acted like a true gentleman; even offering me his jacket if I was cold.”
Ross’s father drove them for photos at the golf course and a park in the early afternoon, and then to Bello Cucina in Marshall for the evening meal with 12 other couples.
Rod stayed in the vehicle while the couples dined, just like a real-life chauffeur would.
“We ate salad, chicken alfredo, pasta with (marinara) sauce, and garlic bread,” said Laura. “We sat across from each other at the table. We were just a group of friends all talking together.”
Once at prom, the couples performed a trio of Grand Marches for those in attendance that evening; first with the lights dimmed, the second with the lights on, and the third a “free-for-all in which couples could dress and act silly. Some of the prom-goers sprayed Silly String at the crowd, while others tossed candy to the kids in a parade-like fashion.
For the fun march, Ross wore cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and sunglasses and walked around with his friend Isaac Hennen. Laura walked with two of her friends wearing leis, carrying glow sticks and throwing out candy.
When it came time to dance, though, Ross initially got cold feet.
“When the first slow dance song came on, his friend Tyler (Myhre) had to come and get me because Ross was really nervous about asking me to dance,” Laura said. “I asked Ross to dance and he said ‘yeah’. We slow-danced three times.”
“Ross loves to dance,” said his mother, who was on the post-prom committee. “He really likes music and plays percussion in the band at school.”
At midnight, a bus took the couples to the post-prom activities at the YMCA in Marshall where sub sandwiches, pizza, snacks and beverages awaited them.
A hypnotist from Chicago delighted those in attendance for an hour.
There were also drawings for prizes that were given to all students from Minneota that attended the prom. Ross won a quality blanket and Laura a gift card and a Country Morning candle.
The couples also had access to activities such as basketball, volleyball, ping pong, swimming and more into the morning hours.
“Ross has never been up all night before this,” said Ann. “He usually goes to bed early. We didn’t get back home until 6 a.m. But he never said that he was tired or anything. He just took it all in stride.”
Ross was excited when asked if he wanted to go to prom again next year.
“Yeah,” he said. “It was fun.”
And what was his favorite part about prom? Dressing up? The Grand March? Dining at a fancy restaurant?
“Dancing and pizza,” he said without hesitation.
As for Laura, it takes a special type of person to accept an invitation to prom from someone with special needs.
“My experience at prom was great. Ross was a perfect prom date and gentleman,” she remarked. “Ross was having a great time and he was always excited.
“Prom was a blast and I will never forget this experience. I had a great time with all of my friends. I am glad I had the opportunity of going to prom with Ross. He made the day even more special.”
And if you ask Ross, it’s certain he would say “Me too.”