Kate Saldana and camp counselor Elise Miles

Kate Saldana and camp counselor Elise Miles, both 21, call a friend on Saldana’s phone to find out when she will arrive at prom. 

EMPIRE — Kate Saldana is wearing diamond-studded shoes and hot pink eyeliner that matches the roses on her prom dress and the platform of her motor-powered wheelchair.

On the dance floor, she spins her chair while her friends bounce around her, waving their arms under the green and pink pulsing lights of an activity room-turned-ballroom for one memorable evening. At the center, a tree made of papier-mache and strung with leaves rises to the ceiling. And in the corner, a contortionist dangles from aerial silks.

This is the night Saldana, 21, looks forward to all year. The prom she attended in high school doesn’t compare. College doesn’t compare, really. This night — the finale to a weeklong summer camp in the Colorado mountains for teenagers with disabilities — is the thing.

“When I come to camp, I feel like a completely different person, but it’s a great person, I think,” said Saldana, who has spinal muscular atrophy.

Just off Interstate 70 at the Empire exit, surrounded by pine forest, mountains and a creek, Saldana has found the best friends of her life.

Read the whole story at The Colorado Sun. The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization that covers people, places and issues of statewide interest. To sign up for free newsletters, subscribe or learn more, visit ColoradoSun.com.

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