Miss Minnesota to go to prom with Wisconsin high schooler who has Down syndrome

Danielle Hooper (left) and Charlie Gainey (right).
Danielle Hooper (left) and Charlie Gainey (right).

Inspired by her 2-year-old cousin, the reigning Miss Minnesota, Danielle Hooper, will go to Menomonie High School's prom this weekend with Charlie Gainey, an 18-year-old junior who has Down syndrome.

SEE ALSO: Target praised for using model with Down syndrome in ad

Hooper, 20, is a junior at UW-Stout. She learned from a coworker in the school's financial aid office that Gainey had been nominated for Menomonie High's prom court. The coworker, whose son is on a Special Olympics swim team with Gainey, asked Hooper if she'd be up for going to prom with him, and she "thought it would be such a great opportunity," Hooper told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

"Actually, I have a 2-year-old cousin, Eden, in Seattle, who was born with Down syndrome," Hooper continued. "That was a big surprise to our family and was my first introduction to it. She is such a joy and blessing to us, so I kind of have a soft spot for that, and knowing Charlie's story drew me to this."

Gainey has an epic Saturday ahead of him. He's competing in two Special Olympics swim meets during the day, then going out for dinner with Hooper before prom. As Gainey's father told the Leader-Telegram, "If Charlie wins a couple of swimming events, then goes out to eat and to a dance with Miss Minnesota, I think that's a good day for any guy."

Gainey, meanwhile, said his nomination to the prom court and Hooper's decision to go to the dance with him is "an honor and really means a lot to me."

The Leader-Telegram reports that Hooper received permission to be Gainey's date from her boyfriend, 21-year-old Minnetonka resident Alex Reisner.

"I called him and told him about it, and he said, 'Yes, you have to do that,'" she told the paper.

Hooper will represent Minnesota in June's Miss USA pageant. And from the sounds of it, she's a selection we can be proud of, even if she does happen to go to college in Wisconsin.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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