PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For 14 years, Skyler McAtee of Presque Isle has made frequent visits to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston. The 18-year-old was diagnosed at age 4 with a bone deficiency which caused one leg to be shorter than the other, and has had to undergo multiple surgeries to correct it.
So when the teen and her family were thinking up creative ways to arrive at the Presque Isle High School prom this year, she looked to the organization that has been supporting her all of her life. That is how McAtee and date Grant Bridges ended up in a limousine full of clowns as they made their way to the dance.
The teens were shuttled to the prom on May 20 in a stretch limousine with 11 Shrine Circus clowns that Saturday. The clowns exited the car one by one in colorful flourishes and with balloon animals in hand, until all had departed the vehicle but the couple.
“That was such as unbelievable experience,” McAtee said Tuesday. “I was so humbled and grateful to all of the clowns who showed up to support me. I really didn’t expect it.”
Shelley McAtee, Skyler’s mother, said that the teenager has undergone multiple surgeries to correct her condition, including a bone lengthening surgery in which her femur was broken and pins were put in her leg to allow new bone to grow. Through it all, she said, they have been nurtured by their “Shriner family.”
“When we first approached the clowns with this idea, we weren’t sure how many would participate,” she said. “But they were very enthusiastic.”
Skyler McAtee said there were so many clowns in the limousine that some of them were sitting on the floor of the vehicle on the ride to the prom.
Ron McAtee, Skyler’s father, wanted so much to give back to the organization that had helped his family that he also decided to become a clown. He accomplished the goal and joined the other clowns in the limo for the ride to the prom.
“This was a total surprise, so no one at the prom knew that these clowns were going to come out of the car,” said Shelley McAtee. “People were just so delighted to see it.”
Her daughter agreed.
“It really was neat,” she said.