This man crossed the country after learning one teen didn’t have a date to prom.

For many teens, prom is a formative experience filled with memories and expectations. Not having a date can be hard, but it was particularly tough for one girl named Emily Wheeler in the UK a few years back.

An Unexpected Date

man in a striped shirt standing with a teen girl in a blue dress
Facebook/Andrew Duffy

In 2016, Wheeler was readying for her prom and was prepared to go solo. However, when her stepfather’s friend, Andrew Duffy, heard that she didn’t have a date, he knew he had to help. The former soldier had first met Emily at his friend’s wedding, and he started a fast friendship with the girl.

“When I heard she had no one to take her to prom I was really upset for her — who wouldn’t want to take her?” he said to the Daily Mail. “There was no doubt in my mind, I had to come down to Devon and help out.”

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Duffy had suffered from mental health issues and PTSD following a tour in Iraq. But when he met Wheeler, who has Down syndrome, he was struck by her positive attitude and determination.

“When I spend time with her she just absorbs every bit of negativity, it is really quite amazing,” he added.

So he did what he felt he had to do, and drove to Edinburgh Airport. From there, he flew to Bristol, then drove to Barnstaple, north of Devon, where Wheeler lives.

A Night to Remember

According to the Mail article, Wheeler and Duffy had a terrific time at prom. She wore a blue dress and her older sister helped with her hair and makeup. Duffy brought her a bunch of pink roses. And at the Grease-themed prom, the staff from the college’s supported learning section even voted Wheeler prom queen, capping the memorable night.

“I didn’t do it for any form of recognition, I just wanted to dance with her and have a good time,” Duffy added.

He also emphasized what a difference Wheeler has made in his own life and why it was so crucial for him to help her in her time of need.

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“I don’t think I’d be here today if it weren’t for her. I can honestly say that girl saved my life,” he explained.

“I think the way forward is for PTSD sufferers to spend time working with people with special needs. When you suffer a debilitating illness, you become withdrawn from society. But being around people like Emily makes you understand there is life outside your own problems.”

On Facebook, Duffy added that taking Wheeler to prom was one of his most memorable moments. “What an absolute honor and pleasure to be doing this,” he shared, as per Today. “[Two of the] proudest moments of my life so far: 1. Serving my country. 2. This moment.”

You’re Never Alone

teen girl in a blue dress holding roses
Facebook/Andrew Duffy

One of the reasons this story resonated with so many people and went viral on social media is the core message: friendship. Sometimes friendship — like the friendship between Wheeler and Duffy — is unexpected or unconventional. But that doesn’t make it any less valid.

Duffy found an unexpected connection with Wheeler when he saw her positivity and determination to live her own life. And Wheeler knows she can depend on Duffy when it matters most.

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Their story is enough to make you want to reach out to your own friends and check in to see how they’re doing. Send them an email, pick up the phone and call or text, or schedule a coffee, lunch or dinner date.

Meanwhile, there’s another key takeaway from this story that Duffy also touched upon. No matter how dark things get, they will get better. Even when you think you’re alone, at the end of the day, someone else probably has it worse. And if they can persevere, so can you.


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