Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Deonna Day and her friends dance at a prom

50 prom dresses and a girl’s last wish

Added on Friday, December 21, 2012

The Salvation Army serves according to one thing: need.

That much was clear earlier this month, when The Salvation Army secured prom dresses to help grant the wish of a 13-year-old girl suffering from terminal cancer.

Deonna Day was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. The disease was in remission until November, when doctors discovered it had spread throughout her body. They said she didn’t have much time left.

Her friends in Onamia, Minn., and surrounding Lake Mille Lacs communities were determined to make her last wish come true: experiencing a prom.

It had to happen fast – 10 days. Nay Ah Shing Schools activities director Bugs Haskin and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe scrambled to organize everything. They contacted businesses that donated food, decorations, DJ services – even a limousine ride to and from Model College of Hair Design in St. Cloud, where Deonna and her friends got their hair and makeup done before prom night.

Haskin also contacted The Salvation Army. She needed prom dresses – lots of them.

“The help I am requesting is if The Salvation Army would donate gowns/dresses for the girls,” she emailed. “I hope you will help us make this girl’s wish come true.”

With that, Linda Ramson of The Salvation Army Service Extension Unit in Mille Lacs County had six days to gather as many prom dresses as possible. She called friends, posted on Facebook and spread the word at Milaca High School.

Several days later, Linda drove to Milaca High to collect dresses donated by students and teachers.

“Afterward, I was going to take my mom for a drive – I had to tell her I didn’t have room because the whole back of my car and the passenger seat were filled with so many dresses,” said Linda, a retired social worker who’s been volunteering for The Salvation Army for 20 years. “It was nice to be a part of this and I’m so glad I could help.”

By the time Deonna’s prom day arrived on Saturday, Dec. 1, Linda had secured about 50 prom dresses. That night, dozens of 6th- to 12th-grade girls put on the radiant gowns and danced the night away with their classmates at Nay Ah Shing School in Onamia.

Understandably, Deonna wasn’t much on talking to reporters. She had more important things to worry about: having a great time.

As the night unfolded, it was always easy to spot Deonna in the crowd. She was the girl dancing the hardest, singing the loudest and laughing the most. And nobody looked quite as beautiful.

View photos or watch a video of Deonna’s incredible prom night.

The Salvation Army has at least one Service Extension Unit volunteer like Linda in every county of Minnesota and North Dakota. Their job is to meet critical needs whenever they arise.