Being bullied in school is an extremely difficult experience. But it’s far worse when you’re fighting a serious, personal illness—and bullies use that against you.
That was the case for Shannon Purcifer, a 16-year-old from Gosport, England, who suffers from bowel disease, ulcerative colitis and arthritis. Her conditions are severe enough to affect her daily life, and she requires constant medication and endured a hospital stay two years ago.
But the physical toll is nothing compared to the personal harassment she has received from her classmates. Shannon said that when her bullies found out about her illnesses, they tormented her ruthlessly.
“It was really difficult to cope with,” she told The Mirror. “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.”
Shannon also said that she would often be given her own separate room during break periods as sanctuary from her bullies.
Still, despite the rough situation, Shannon remained determined to live a normal life and have the same experiences as her peers. When her school’s prom came around, she was all set to go with her boyfriend. She even bought a beautiful, expensive new dress to wear.
But when the night came around, fear took over. Shannon couldn’t go through with it, knowing her tormenters would be there waiting for her.
“I just know that if I had gone to the prom they would have completely [made fun] of me,” she told The Mirror. “They’re like a gang—girls and boys.”
“On the night of the prom I didn’t really do anything. I was too upset…It was difficult because I’d been looking forward to it for ages.”
Shannon’s decision to skip prom broke her mother’s heart.
Shannon’s mother, Claire Carstens, couldn’t bear to see her daughter distraught like that—especially in the prom dress she had all ready 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,” she told The Mirror.
So she took to Facebook, posting photos of her daughter’s would-be prom dress and sharing the story of Shannon’s bully problem.
But then, something amazing happened.
When people saw the post they were moved by Shannon’s heartbreaking story—and decided to take action.
The community came together around a great idea: to throw Shannon her very own bully-free prom, surrounded by friends.
Claire wrote that friends and local businesses came together to provide food and space, as well as hair and nails for Shannon. Many of the vendors offered their services for free.
A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for the prom. It made more than triple its initial fundraising goal.
Even a local biker group got in on the action, calling on members to show up and escort Shannon to her new prom. 120 bikers showed up.
Claire was stunned by the response her post led to.
“It was just so nice to see so many wonderful people, people we’ve never met before,” she told Inside Edition. “People wanted to make her happy.”
On July 22nd, Shannon was finally ready for prom. She got back into her prom dress:
Her friends, family, and the community showed up in full force:
Then she hit the road in style (no bullies were going to mess with her with these guys by her side):
Then it was time to tear up the dance floor:
Posted by Kevin Carstens on Sunday, July 23, 2017
And of course, she got plenty of photos with her mom, who inspired the event:
Claire was proud of her daughter—not just for getting to experience prom, but for sticking it to her bullies in the process.
“There’s no better way to [beat] bullies than to go out and enjoy yourself,” she said, according to Metro.
And of course, it was an unforgettable day for Shannon. After the tormenting she has endured, the day has reaffirmed in her the goodness of people:
“It was so overwhelming the whole day,” she told Inside Edition.
“I didn’t think that people could be that nice because of how horrible people had been.”
She said her favorite part was the surprise motorcycle escort, but the whole day was beyond her imagination:
“It was better than I could ever have imagined,” she told Metro. “It was far better than if I had gone to my own school prom.”