Jerika Bolen, terminally ill teen who hosted ‘last dance’ prom, has died

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APPLETON, Wisc. — Two months after she got her wish to experience a prom, a Wisconsin teen who chose to end her life amid a battle with a painful, terminal illness has died.

Jerika Bolen’s mother, Jen, confirmed to Gannett Wisconsin Media her daughter passed away Thursday at Sharon S. Richardson Hospice in Sheboygan Falls.

Bolen suffered from Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, which destroys nerve cells that control voluntary muscle activity. She never walked and only had movement in her head and hands.

After dozens of surgeries, Bolen spoke with her family and decided she didn’t want to continue fighting the terminal disease, but she had one last request — to go to prom.

Her mother created a GoFundMe page, J’s Last Dance, and Bolen’s story was thrust into the national spotlight where it sparked a debate over her right to die.

Bolen’s mother wrote:

“I promised my child when it got to be too much I would be behind her no matter what. She has let me know now that she needs to be free of her broken body. She has a couple last wishes that I would love your help with. She wants to have a “prom” … one night of music and dancing and fun. She wants to be surrounded by lots of friends she has been unable to see for a long time.”

In July, more than 1,000 people attended to help her celebrate one final bash, including special guest Richie Giese, her favorite YouTube star.

She wore a sparkly green gown, and a limo with a police escort whisked her off to her prom.

"We took a long route so she could enjoy it," Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas said.

A parade of squad cars led her limousine to the Grand Meridian in Appleton "to support her before she goes," Chief Thomas said.

For one night, Jerika wanted to be seen as a princess.

"It makes my heart explode. It's so crazy that people want to come out for little old me," Jerika Bolen said.