JOPLIN — Joplin High School seniors, whose school was destroyed in the massive tornado last year, gathered for a special assembly that included a surprise message from pop singer Katy Perry and an announcement of several donations for their prom.
Perry offered words of encouragement in a video message Thursday and told the seniors that a team volunteers is giving them a special prom, KSHB-TV reported.
"I'm so proud of each and every one of you," Perry told students gathered in the cafeteria. "Especially in this past year, I know that there have been some challenges, and you have been through a lot."
She said an "ambush team" would be on hand to give students "the prom of your dreams."
The May tornado was one of the deadliest in U.S. history. The storm killed 161 people, destroyed thousands of homes, businesses and schools and left a 14-mile trail of damage in the southwest Missouri city of 50,000 residents.
The volunteers and donations came together thanks to the efforts of Joplin High School teacher Amber Travis, who said this year's prom couldn't be like the other five she helped plan. So she wrote a letter to national talk shows, big corporations and Melissa Blayton of Kansas City, who gathered several of the volunteers on hand during the Thursday announcement.
FedEx donated $2,500 and helped donate a corsage or boutonniere for each senior. Megan Green from Rockhurst University in Kansas City also helped gather more than 150 donated prom dresses. Senior boys are getting tuxedoes for $50 from a local store, and a popular Joplin-area disc jockey, a photo booth company, a photographer and event planner are also donating their services.
Volunteers said they still needed donations of dresses and cash.
Senior Yainer Oviedo, whose family lost everything in the EF5 tornado, said "words can't express" what the prom help "means to me, to us."
Oviedo said his senior class has a stronger bond now after this school year.
"It has been intense," he said.