You'd think that the homecoming queen would have no trouble getting a limo for prom, but for Arvada West High School's queen Kelsie Levad and her boyfriend AJ Novotny, it seemed arriving in style was an impossibility.
Kelsie and AJ both use wheelchairs because of their cerebral palsy, and they were finding it difficult to locate a vehicle that could accommodate their two wheelchairs and bring them to their pre-prom dinner last Saturday in Arvada, Colo.
Kelsie is a senior and AJ, who graduated from the school last year, is in a transitional program to help him develop work skills. The couple have been together for a year and a half, and when it came time for Kelsie's prom, they hoped they'd enjoy the full limo experience. At first it seemed there were no options, until one of AJ's jobs led to a solution way cooler than a limo.
AJ, 19, has been volunteering once a week at the Arvada Fire Department — a gig he landed with the help of his para-educator Dianna Boyer.
"He was working as a greeter at a store, and I thought, he's so much more than a greeter," Boyer said. "My cousin works for the fire department, so I asked, ‘Is there anything he can do?’ He is so much more than sitting in his chair and saying hi to people."
AJ has thrived at the fire department. During his volunteer hours, he helps package teddy bears that firefighters give to children when they go on calls. Boyer said the firefighters and other department employees have "kind of adopted him."
So when Deanna Harrington, public information officer and life safety educator at the fire department, heard about AJ and Kelsie's prom transportation woes, she decided to step in. One day when AJ came to volunteer, Harrington surprised him by having the crew take him out on the truck.
"It was absolutely amazing how excited he was (on the truck)," Harrington said. "As prom was approaching, I heard from his mom that she had looked around and there weren't limos or vehicles they could get to transport two kids who were wheelchair-bound. We thought, ‘We already know we can get AJ on the truck, why can’t we get his date on, too?’”
Between Harrington, AJ's mom, Boyer and the rest of the crew at the Arvada Fire Department, the plan was hatched. AJ and Kelsie were already planning on coming by beforehand to take pictures in front of the trucks in their formalwear, and everyone decided to reveal the special ride to the couple once the photos were done.
"He was all squeals!" Harrington said. "I said, ‘But you should ask your date if she would like to ride on the truck.’ She started squealing as well."
"It was exciting for all of us to see the joy in his face," Boyer said. "They were beside themselves." She accompanied them throughout the night, on the ride to dinner, and then to the prom at Denver's Mile High Stadium. She said the couple had an absolute ball.