An unwell teenager missed her prom after she being bullied at school, decided to have her own celebration after her friends organized their own party instead.
Shannon Purcifer, 16, ditched her prom after 18 months of supposed intimidation from classmates who left her in tears due to bullying as she battled bowel disease ulcerative colitis.
Her mother, Claire Carstens, posted a picture of her daughter in her white prom dress the night she was meant to join in the end of year celebrations.
Friends and strangers decided to rally round the teenager, and organise her an alternative prom, which 100 people are expected to attend in Gosport, Hampshire, on Saturday night.
A lot of scooters will escort Shannon, in her £470 dress, to the venue, and guests will include Shannon’s stepdad Kevin Carstens, a 37-year-old engineer, her brothers Alex, 18, and Brandon, 12, and four-year-old sister Freya, as well as ‘true friends’ and family.
Brave coeliac Shannon, who was also diagnosed with arthritis earlier this year, said she would often be given a room of her own at break times to stop bullies from picking on her.
Her mother Claire, a 38-year-old retail worker, said: ‘She wants to show the bullies that they won’t win.
‘The night she was supposed to go to her prom she just did nothing. She tried the dress on but it was heart-breaking for her to choose not to go.
‘She had been looking forward to it for months and we bought the dress as far back as February but the bullying got so bad she knew she wouldn’t enjoy it if she went.
‘With all the things she’s been going through with her health and trying to study for GCSEs, the bullying has just taken its toll.
‘It started about halfway through year 10 and continued into year 11. It’s mainly been name-calling and intimidation but there has been physical bullying too.
‘When she’s been poorly, the bullies have jumped on that too and it’s got to the point where she feels sick every day.
‘Having to put up with all of that has been too much for her.’
Shannon, whose dad Daniel Purcifer, a Royal Navy Petty Officer, died in Germany in 2007 aged 28, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis two years ago.
The condition, which causes inflammation and ulcers to develop in the inner lining of the colon, left Shannon seriously ill in hospital for two weeks when she was 14.
Shannon, who is due to begin college in the autumn, has to take up to five tablets a day for this condition and her arthritis, which was spotted by doctors last year.
According to Shannon, when the bullies found out about her illnesses, the mocking only got worse.
Shannon said: ‘It was really difficult to cope with. They used to call me the most terrible names. I couldn’t even repeat any of them.
‘It was really bad stuff, then it spread to text messages and social media. I had to change my number but somehow they still found me.
‘I just know that if I had gone to the prom they would have completely taken the mick out of me. They’re like a gang: girls and boys.
‘The worst pain I have is the arthritis. It’s in every joint. Some people didn’t believe I had it and said I was faking.
‘On the night of the prom I didn’t really do anything. I was too upset. I saw my boyfriend, Lee, but I knew I couldn’t face it.
‘It was difficult because I’d been looking forward to it for ages, but now I’m excited for this one. I’m really touched by all the effort people have put in to it.’
A mystery car will collect Shannon, who recently had her waist-length hair cut to a bob to raise funds for Cancer Research UK, on Saturday afternoon after Claire’s friend Kerri Kimber put out an appeal on social media.
In Claire’s original touching Facebook post, accompanied by two black-and-white pictures of Shannon wearing the floor-length white dress, she wrote: ‘If Shannon had gone to prom tonight she would have worn this beautiful dress.
‘Thanks to nasty vile bullies Shannon decided she didn’t want to go and mix with scum that made her so miserable.
‘For a girl that has had so much to deal with in life – coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis – she is one strong young lady with an even stronger mind. Love you girl.’
Speaking about the plans for Saturday, Claire said: ‘It’s going to be a full prom. Some very kind people have offered to do her hair, we’ve got decorations, everything.
‘She’s a beautiful young girl and I’m so proud of her for sticking two fingers up at the bullies. She wanted to join the Navy like her dad but can’t because of her health so she’s looking into a career in law or engineering.’
The headteacher of Shannon’s Hampshire school said: ‘Although we cannot comment on individual pupil matters, as a school we work hard with all pupils who experience bullying to help resolve the issues they are experiencing. The school prom was, as always, a safe and happy event.
‘The alternative prom is a lovely idea. It is a great example of the positive power of social media, and we hope it is a great success.’