The young patients got to dress up in fancy clothes and dance with their friends. Many of the attendants likely will never get the chance to attend their high school proms.
No patient gowns for one night — only ball gowns.
Terminally ill California teens took a break from the marble tiles of sterile hospital hallways for the dance floor at a prom thrown just for them.
The event took place 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday at The Ebell of Los Angeles.
“These kids are in and out of hospitals their whole lives. They don’t get a lot of chances to go out and dress up and feel good about themselves,” said Marta Belcher, executive director of No Worries Now, the organization behind the event.
The youths dressed to the nines, walked a red carpet, posed for pictures beside an elegant fountain, ate gourmet meals and cut a rug with their friends.
But the night goes deeper than just fulfilling a prom wish.
“It’s honestly just somewhere where I can feel normal,” one teen boy told WJLA-TV.
Many of the attendants will not live long enough to attend a high school prom. Arduous treatment programs will bar most others.
A teen boy, Fred Scarf, founded the Los Angeles-based No Worries Now in 2006.
Two years earlier, his best friend, Shiri Gumbiner, was hospitalized from bone cancer. Scarf would cheer her up throughout debilitating and ineffective treatment by discussing their plans to attend senior prom together.
Shiri never got the chance. She died at 16.
“He was devastated. There were lots of things they wanted to do together. This idea of the prom propped up and he thought this would be a good way to honor her memory,” Belcher said.
No Worries Now aims to “spread the feelings of normalcy and joy” that patients get to feel at their proms throughout the entire year.
Since 2007, the group has thrown proms in Los Angeles. The events have since spread to San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego and Washington, D.C.
About 20 teens attended the first prom. Nearly 300 teens went to Thursday’s event, free of charge.
But these youngsters do not just battle disease. They also fight ignorance.
What did guests say they got from this prom? Understanding and acceptance — a break from the negativity and cruelty that several say stains their high school experiences.
“You feel like no one is judging you or anything. That’s why I really like coming here,” one teen said.
“At a regular prom, maybe people would look at me weird because I’m the only one in a wheelchair. But here everyone has something — a story to share.”