KERSHAW, S.C. (WIS) - Just a few weeks after a tornado ripped through their school, juniors and seniors at North Central High School got a big surprise from the Carolina Panthers.
Their school was devastated by the storm, and demolition began earlier this week to prepare the football stadium to host graduation -- one of the long-held traditions at the school.
But there’s another long-held tradition that many students at NCHS said they weren’t sure would happen this year -- their prom.
Friday, the juniors and seniors came into the auditorium thinking it was just an ordinary meeting. That’s until they saw the Panthers themed music and lights.
Panthers’ representatives announced they would be hosting the high school’s prom this year at the team’s Atrium Health Dome indoor practice facility on Monday, March 30.
Shock and excitement erupted into the air when students heard the news.
“I was speechless, I was shocked,” Star Shaw, a senior, said. “I was like, our senior prom is going to be in Charlotte at the Carolina practice stadium?! That is unbelievable.”
Panthers’ representatives kicked off the surprise with a few rounds of games ending with big prizes, like donated weight room equipment and 50 sets of practice uniforms that have been worn by some of the Panthers’ biggest names -- including Julius Peppers and Luke Kuechly.
“These are famous panthers players, panthers legends, fan favorites, and these kids now are connected to them just on a daily basis,” Riley Fields, the director of community relations for the Carolina Panthers said.
The grand finale was the announcement that the team would be chartering all the juniors and seniors for prom, and that the school was allowing all students to come in late for school the next day.
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The students’ reaction to the news was priceless.
“I’m so glad because I was thinking that we wouldn’t even have prom,” Sara Bowers, a junior, said.
It’s a “Great Gatsby” prom theme and the Atrium Health Foundation will also pitch in by re-purposing the decor from the Levine Children’s Hospital gala that happens the weekend before the prom.
“Feeling their energy feeling that excitement, it’s really gratifying,” Fields said. “But really it’s the opportunity to provide joy back to the community that has experienced some challenges this school year.”
Panthers’ representatives hope this brings joy to the students and helps them to “Keep Pounding” and stay positive in the wake of losing their school this year.
The team also donated $5,000 to help refurbish the scoreboard at the school’s stadium.