Gladstone High's first Prom night taxi in 33 years
PROM night is a memorable one for any student, but for Lochlan Thomas and Paula Matthews their memories from Tuesday night will last a lifetime.
Graduating Gladstone State High School student Lochlan and taxi driver Paula had met before prom night.
Paula would often drive Lochlan, 17, to school in her wheelchair-capable maxi taxi, and it was from those interactions that brought an amazing gesture of goodwill to fruition.
"It was about two months ago when I had Lochie in my car ready to take him to school and I asked him if he was excited about prom and he said 'no, because I don't have any way to get there'," Paula said.
"I told him to leave it with me and I spoke to the taxi owner Mark Boyd from Gladstone Fleet Maintenance and said if you can donate your car, I can donate my time to take this young man to the prom.
"Mark agreed with it and I went back to Lochie and said I'm going to take you to the prom and do my taxi up for you."
Paula decorated the taxi with tinsel on the front bumper, blue tulle fabric on the dashboard to match Lochlan's tie and flashing lights and stars on the inside of the taxi.
The reaction of Lochlan upon seeing Paula's taxi was one to behold and something she won't be forgetting in a long time.
"It was amazing the smile on that boy's face, it melted my heart," she said.
"He was just so excited and I gave him a flower to put on his shirt and he absolutely loved it."
Lochlan's spirits weren't dampened despite a drop of rain and a two-and-a-half hour wait for their convoy of five vehicles to make the trek from the Gladstone Marina to the Gladstone Entertainment Convention Centre.
The reaction from his peers made that wait fully worthwhile.
"We got up there and everyone was clapping for him and when I got him out of the car I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a kiss," Paula said.
"I drove off from there but had to pull over on the side of the road and I just balled my eyes out. It was just the most amazing thing to see the smile on this young man's face.
"I figured to myself he's got cerebral palsy, he's in a wheelchair, he attended school every single day in grade 12 and he deserved to be there just as much as anyone else."
Paula estimated a full-paid fare for the amount of time she spent with Lochlan would have been at least a few hundred dollars.
"You just had to be there and see the smile on his face. It was magical, emotional and I'm just so glad I did it," she said.
Lochlan couldn't thank Paula enough for donating her time and showing a heart of gold.
"I was very appreciative that she went to so much trouble to deck it all out and gave up her time to take me to prom," Lochlan said.
"It was great to see someone go to that time and effort to do that for a disabled person.
"My friends were very impressed to see the taxi done up and I was told I was the first taxi to be in the formal procession in 33 years.
"It was a great night and I sincerely thank Paula for the trouble she went to."