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Brian Andre
Large group of couples pose for pictures at an office building in Lake Forest, Calif., because it was wet and raining at the park, where the pictures were supposed to be taken at the Mormon Prom 2012 on March 17.
"It is all about having wholesome fun and a positive dating experience and being with a group of youth that share the same high standards." —Marci Paul, the Young Women president for Foothill Ranch

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. — Southern California teenagers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attended the Mormon Prom on Saturday, March 17, at Soka University in Aliso Viejo, Calif. Youths ages 16-18 from the Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, San Clemente and Laguna Niguel congregations were invited to join the annual event.

“It is all about having wholesome fun and a positive dating experience and being with a group of youth that share the same high standards,” said Marci Paul, the Young Women president for Foothill Ranch.

Jordan Procuniar, of Portola Hills, asked his mother, Anne, if she could help plan a dinner for him and his seminary class. He said thought it would be good to be together before the dance and there wouldn’t be a large expense. Anne, mother of six, asked other mothers for a little help and put on a grand looking dinner for 36 teenagers at the community clubhouse while only charging $10 per couple.

“I made the entree (roasted chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, honey glazed carrots and rolls) and asked for help from the other parents for a salad and dessert bar, set-up, serving and clean-up," she said. "It was all worth the effort to watch the youth have a wonderful time together.”

Then it was on to the themed dance, “The Sweetest Night of Your Life,” with tickets at just $10 per couple. Professional pictures and refreshments, like candy and floats, were included in the package.

Not everyone had an easy time getting to the prom. Broken bones, volleyball games and crutches looked to be an obstacle for some youths, but it didn’t keep them from their big night.

Kiley Bowen, a senior at Trabuco Hills High School, plays for Saddleback Valley Volleyball Club. She had the Junior National Qualifiers in Anaheim the same day as the dance. She played matches at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.. She missed going to the group dinner and pictures but she made a commitment to her club and team to be at all the tournaments that weren’t on Sunday. She arrived at the dance at 10:12 p.m. coming straight from the tournament, doing her make-up and hair in the car. Complicating matters, her original date ended up in the hospital with a health problem. Instead, she met her last-minute replacement date Ryan Knecht, from Mission Viejo, at the dance.

“It was a little crazy to get there, but I knew it was my last Mormon Prom and I didn’t want to miss it,” Kiley said.

Barbara Bell, from San Clemente, said her daughter Lauren's date, David Sorensen from Laguna Niguel, broke his hip in a ski accident before the prom — but that didn’t stop him from going. He came, crutches and all. Barbara Bell was involved with the first Mormon Prom in California seven years ago.

“The school dances were so expensive and not always such a good environment. We do this dance at a nice venue where they have high standards in dress, dance and music. We invite all youths as long as they are willing to abide by the standards," she explained. "That first year we had a big spread in the Orange County Register and we got calls from many parents that weren’t Mormon but wanted their youth to participate. We learned that parents appreciate knowing their children are having a good time in a safe environment with high standards.”

Madelyn Paul, a senior at El Toro High School, said, “I love how the dance has such a positive atmosphere where everyone is happy and having a good time. It is nice knowing that you are surrounded by others who share the same values and standards.”

Karen Lake is the director of public relations for the Santa Margarita California Stake.