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Wisconsin teen to take Miss Minnesota to prom

  • Associated Press
  • May 2, 2013 - 10:03 AM

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. - A Wisconsin teen with Down syndrome will have a dream date to his junior prom Saturday: He's taking Miss Minnesota USA Danielle Hooper.

A mutual friend arranged the date after Charlie Gainey, 18, was nominated to the prom court. Julie Schultz has a child who swims on a Special Olympics team with Gainey, and she works with Hooper in University of Wisconsin-Stout's financial aid office.

Hooper said she thought the date would be a wonderful opportunity to make people happy.

"Actually, I have a 2-year-old cousin, Eden, in Seattle, who was born with Down syndrome," she said. "That was a big surprise to our family and was my first introduction to it. She is such a joy and blessing to us, so I kind of have a soft spot for that, and knowing Charlie's story drew me to this."

The 20-year-old Hooper — who will graduate from UW-Stout next year with a retail merchandising degree — is to compete in the Miss USA pageant on June 16. She is originally from Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

Gainey, who will take part in a Special Olympics swim meet earlier Saturday and will be a co-captain on his school's swim team next season, said he's happy to be on the court and isn't worried about whether he will be elected king.

"It's an honor and really means a lot to me and my date," he told the Leader-Telegram ( http://bit.ly/Yh3yxM). "Whether I am king or not really doesn't matter; it's about dinner, the dance, prom, and a lot about Danielle."

Gainey and Hooper plan to have dinner at Jake's Supper Club near Menomonie before the grand march at the high school and dance at UW-Stout. He will wear his grandfather's tuxedo, and Hooper said she is shopping for a new dress. She said she thought about wearing the one she wore when she won her title in November but it "might be a bit too much for prom."

Gainey's parents, Anne and Dan Gainey, said they just want their son to have a good time.

"I don't think I was prepared for my son to be making news with Miss Minnesota, but I think there are so many really good stories inside this story," Dan Gainey said.

Bart Boettcher, activities director at Menomonie High School, said all the students are excited for Gainey.

"We've had many diverse students chosen for prom and homecoming," Boettcher said. "That says a lot about that class and the school in general."

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Information from: Leader-Telegram, http://www.leadertelegram.com/

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