Community steps in to help plan a special prom for an Ottawa student

Like all graduating students in Ottawa, Makenzie Cannon’s hopes for an in-person graduation and prom were dashed due to the pandemic. 

Cannon, 20, has Down syndrome and is graduating from St. Patrick’s High School this spring.

"COVID is hard, I don't see anyone," said Cannon.

Her mom Tina Cannon says her daughter was looking forward to going to her prom.

"It is the last year and that’s when all the big moments are held," Tina says. "Makenzie was ecstatic for her prom… and that’s when I decided to talk to my husband and say, 'She is getting that prom.' We are going to do it at home. Just because she can’t go out and do it, doesn’t mean she can’t have a prom."

Tina posted on Facebook this week asking for suggestions on a local limo driver they could hire. Within moments, the community responded with offers to help.

"It all started with that limo post. As of (Wednesday) morning, there were 985 people who linked and commented," said Tina.

Tina Cannon says she couldn’t believe the responses from the post.

"People want to send her cards; I have had people offer to pay for the limo. I have people offer to buy her a dress…. People offer to pay for her flowers saying, ‘No girl should have to buy her own flowers.'"

Both the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board say they will be going ahead with virtual graduation ceremonies. The boards are looking into opportunities to allow graduating students to go into their school, wear a cap and gown, and have their pictures taken while receiving their diplomas. 

The Cannon family says they will be following the provincial guidelines on what will be allowed in their backyard, hoping to hold the party in early July. 

"I am excited," says Makenzie. 

Tina Cannon says she is overwhelmed by the community’s willingness to help make the day special for her daughter.

"It feels good to know there are good hearts out there and people care," said Cannon.

"Having all this amazing stuff come out of it, absolutely makes this year worth it. Yes, it was hard. But the end is going to be so much better for it."