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Teammates Make Others Feel Like Stars

By Julia Ann Easley on March 9, 2020 in University

On the football field, Kooper Richardson uses all of his 300 pounds and 6-foot-6-inch frame to defend his UC Davis quarterback. On this Saturday after Valentine’s Day, he gently held the hand of a teen in a sparkling crimson gown as they waited in line to have their portrait taken.

Richardson was one of five Aggie teammates serving as escorts at the Shining Stars Prom for teens and young adults with special needs at Destiny Church’s community center in Rocklin.

“Some of us just love doing this so much,” said the senior, who is majoring in communication.

The five are Aggie Heroes for 2019-20. Meet other Aggie Heroes on the Leadership website.

Volunteers were paired with about 70 individuals from age 14 to 30 for the evening that featured a red-carpet entrance, corsages and boutonnieres for the guests, photos, dancing and refreshments. And from the Aggies, gentlemanly attentions.

“We want the prom to be something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” said Kaden Richardson, Kooper’s brother, an offensive lineman and freshman majoring in communication.

Student Brock Johnson dancing at Shining Stars promUC Davis football player Brock Johnson dances with attendees of  the Shining Stars Special Needs Prom in Rocklin. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)
Student poses in photo booth with date and other prom attendees.UC Davis football player Kooper Richardson poses in the photo booth with his date and other attendees at the Shining Stars Special Needs Prom in Rocklin. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Since his senior year in high school, Kooper had been an escort at the annual Evening of Dreams prom in Sacramento, also for special needs individuals. Over the years, he had involved teammates — including 15 last year. When that event was not held this year, Aggies volunteered to participate in Shining Stars, hosted by the Destiny Heroes special needs ministry.

Quarterback Hunter Rodrigues danced with many of the prom-goers. The junior knows most through his service with Greater Sacramento Capernaum – Young Life, which ministers to special needs youth and young adults. “It’s the highlight of every week,” said the human development major. “No matter what’s going on, no matter how stressful life can get, there is no limits of love for all of those kids.”

The Aggie’s roster at the prom included Kooper with guest Montana Klentz; Kaden with Hana Weeks; Rodrigues with JuJu Thurber; Brock Johnson, a quarterback and senior majoring in communication, with Natalie Eddy; and Miles Hastings, a quarterback and freshman majoring in economics, with Shawna Paolicelli.

Five students pose for photo
At the Shining Stars Prom, are, from left to right, Kooper Richardson, Brock Johnson, Hunter Rodrigues, Kaden Richardson and Miles Hastings. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

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About the author(s)

Julia Ann Easley Julia Ann Easley of News and Media Relations writes and supports communications about student life, admissions, graduate and undergraduate education, international activities, libraries and more.