Patti Raouf, a former social worker and public school teacher who now lives in Blue Springs is so excited – she’s going to prom!
“I can’t wait,” said Raouf, whose sewing skills are making an extraordinary prom special for eight young women who attend the Kansas State School for the Blind.
“I’m going to prom – and it’s going to be so much fun.”
Raouf and her husband Ali’s son was recently married in the newly renovated Changing Seasons Presents: A Secret Garden in the historic Englewood arts district. There she met owner Russ Lawrence, and they struck up an immediate friendship.
“Patti is a great, great lady and I just love her to death,” said Lawrence, who is donating his fairyland wedding venue for the girls’ first-ever prom. “I had a lady attend a recent wedding here, and she asked if the girls from the Kansas State School for the Blind could come to our venue to have their senior photos taken. We started talking and she told me that the girls had never been to a prom. So, I said, ‘We have to have the prom here!’
“I had just done Patti’s son’s wedding and we talked a lot and I remembered that she was a home economics teacher and we had eight dresses that had been donated to the girls, but they needed to be altered.”
So Lawrence made a call to Raouf.
“When Russ called, I told him of course, I was thrilled to be a part of the prom,” said Raouf, who was a social worker for 10 years and a teacher in the Hickman Mills School District for 13. “He had someone donate the dresses, but each one had SAMPLE printed on the dress. And that just wasn’t right – we had to fix that.”
Because Patti’s mother’s favorite flower was the dogwood, she appliquéd large dogwood flowers that she worked into the design of each dress for the youngsters who deal with various stages of blindness.
“Do you know what one girl told her father after she tried on her dress?” asked Raouf, he voice touched with emotion. “She said, ‘Daddy, now you know what a Princess looks like?’ That was so special.”
A simple comment like that more than made up for the six weeks Raouf put into altering the dresses.
“It’s been a labor of love,” Raouf said. “Russ has done most of the work. He has people donating food, a stretch Hummer limo so all the girls and their dates can arrive in style and he has a wedding on Saturday and the bride and groom gave him permission to use their flowers and decorations for the girls’ prom.
“So you can see why I’m so excited.”
Raouf had to leave the teaching profession she loved because she developed an immune system disorder that prevents her from socializing with or being around a number of people. One of the things she misses most about leaving the teaching profession is prom.
“But eight students and their parents – that number’s just right,” Raouf said, grinning. “That’s not too many people for me to be around. And the looks on their faces, and on their parents’ faces when they were given the dresses, was so special for me. And to see them in their prom dresses Friday night is going to be pure magic.”