The night she looks forward to all year: Prom, and belonging, at a Colorado camp for teens with disabilities

Jennifer Brown
Colorado Sun
Kate Saldana, center, poses for a photo with friends Elise Miles and Korie Pries during prom night at Rocky Mountain Village Easterseals Camp. Prom is the highlight of a weeklong camp for teenagers with disabilities near Empire. (Jennifer Brown, The Colorado Sun)

Kate Saldana is wearing diamond-studded shoes and hot pink eyeliner that matches the roses on her prom dress and the platform of her motor-powered wheelchair.

On the dance floor, she spins her chair while her friends bounce around her, waving their arms under the green and pink pulsing lights of an activity room-turned-ballroom for one memorable evening. At the center, a tree made of papier-mache and strung with leaves rises to the ceiling. And in the corner, a contortionist dangles from aerial silks.

This is the night Saldana, 21, looks forward to all year. The prom she attended in high school doesn’t compare. College doesn’t compare, really. This night — the finale to a weeklong summer camp in the Colorado mountains for teenagers with disabilities — is the thing.

“When I come to camp, I feel like a completely different person, but it’s a great person, I think,” said Saldana, who has spinal muscular atrophy

Just off Interstate 70 at the Empire exit, surrounded by pine forest, mountains and a creek, Saldana has found the best friends of her life. 

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