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On with the prom

Getting prepared for one's high school prom can be an arduous task. The details are plentiful enough to the point of overwhelming.

Dresses and tuxedos must be just so. Corsages and boutonnieres need to match. Dinner dates need to be reserved long before the trip to the salon or barbershop. There are the shoes, hosiery, hair pieces, ascots or ties to consider. The list continues, and all this takes place after the nerve-wracking process of garnering a date.

The one item virtually all attendees take for granted is the location, music selection and decorations for the event itself. That is, unless you're on the prom committee.

Or if the gymnasium catches fire the day of the long-awaited event.

That was what happened at La Crosse High School this past weekend. Final decorations were put in place Friday evening for the "Sea of Love"-themed prom. Around 4 a.m. Saturday, it was discovered the adornments had caught fire, likely from one of the lamps used to create the scene. The La Crosse and Bison fire departments responded and quickly extinguished the flames, but the smoke damage rendered the building unusable for that night.

As school administrators were pursuing alternatives, St. Michael Parish Center entered into the picture.

Father Matthew Kumi, a priest at the church, said: "I saw that this was something we could come in and help. It's an emergency, and we are all in the community. So we should be there for one another."

Shortly after 8 a.m., the transformation began at St. Michael's. The prom was going to happen.

"This town rallied together for our kids, and we never flinched, we never hesitated that we were going to have prom," said Bill Keeley, superintendent of La Crosse USD 395. "And everybody pulled it off, and everybody donated everything we needed."

Even community members with no children in school joined the effort.

"Everyone came together and did what they needed to do to make it special for the kids," said Kathy Keeley, principal of the high school and middle school.

By 5 p.m., students began arriving to have their keepsake photographs taken. The prom went off without a hitch, and all of the preparation details the youngsters had taken care of did not go to waste.

Most likely, everybody who helped that day did not think they were doing anything remarkable. It is just how a small town works, they'd say. We would agree, but that is what makes it remarkable. This selfless community spirit allowed these students the chance to make memories they can cherish for a lifetime. Given the circumstances of the day, the memories will be even stronger.

"Just to see the handsome guys and beautiful girls, and what us as parents and other people from the community were able to throw together for this event, and it just turned out to be one of the most memorable nights for me as a parent," said parent Amy Depperschmidt.

Well done, La Crosse. The "Sea of Love" theme was acutely appropriate for this prom.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net