‘Now Prom’ Offers 500 Ill Teens the Night of Their Lives
At No Worries Now’s fifth prom, the nonprofit will launch a campaign to give 10,000 sick teens ‘no worries now’ by 2013
LOS ANGELES – Anna Rahm has had anything but the typical high school experience. Diagnosed at age 17 with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, Rahm endured chemotherapy, blood transfusions, multiple surgeries, and the amputation of her right leg. Meanwhile, her peers enjoyed their senior year of high school.
“I didn’t even know if I was going to make it past my senior year,” Rahm said. “It was hard to come to terms with the fact that instead of spending my senior year hanging out with friends, I would spend all my time in a hospital bed. Once I found out about my amputation, it was even harder. What it came down to was, either I was going to live with one leg or die. I was 17, and I was not going to go anywhere.”
Now 19 and out of treatment for almost a year, Rahm has the opportunity to have the ultimate high school experience, with a special twist – a prom for teens with life- threatening illnesses thrown by Los Angeles-based nonprofit No Worries Now on June 29. This will be Rahm’s second Now Prom.
“Going to the Now Prom meant so much to me,” Rahm said of last year’s event, which was held at Sony Studios in Los Angeles and attended by 200 teens. “Even now, every day people look at me like I’m so different, and I hate that. Before the prom, I was scared because I was still bald and I was on crutches, but everyone there could sympathize.
“It was so lively – there is an energy there. Everyone is having so much fun, and you get lost in the night. You’re distracted from your problems. The prom, for me, is a getaway. It’s about having the freedom to be yourself and be comfortable in your own skin.”
Rahm was inspired to start her own nonprofit, called Keepin’ it Private, which she and her mother will launch on June 24. The organization will promote online safety for tweens.
“The Prom was an amazing gift,” Rahm said. “I wanted to pay it forward.”
This year’s Now Prom will be held at Madame Tussauds in Hollywood, in keeping with the Prom’s “Night at the Oscars” theme. The prom is 100% free for all participants, and No Worries Now also provides free formalwear for guests as well as traditional corsages and boutonnieres. Five-hundred teens are expected to attend the Prom, which the nonprofit has held annually since 2007.
“This is our fifth Now Prom, and it’s going to be the platform for the kickoff of the ‘Help Now’ campaign,” said No Worries Now Executive Director Marta Belcher. “We’re
growing rapidly, and our goal with this campaign is to reach 10,000 ill teens by 2013. We’re expanding fundraising efforts in order to organize proms throughout the country, as well as launching new programs to reach more teens in new ways.”
As part of the kickoff, No Worries Now will launch several new programs this summer aimed at giving kids “no worries now.” The programs will include “Prom in a Box,” which will provide volunteers throughout the country with the resources and support they need to hold Now Proms in their areas, and “Now Pairs,” which will pair patients with teen volunteers based on personality and interests, and send each pair on monthly outings, giving the patients an opportunity to relax and just be teens at least once a month. The yearlong pilot program of Now Pairs will be launched in the Bay Area, leading up to No Worries Now’s 2012 prom in San Francisco.
No Worries Now was founded in honor of one teen – Shiri Gumbiner, who passed away from bone cancer at the age of 15. She and No Worries Now Founder Fred Scarf had planned to go to prom together, but she died before they had that opportunity.
“No Worries Now was founded to provide opportunities for teens like Shiri to leave their worries behind for just one night and just be kids instead of being patients,” Belcher said. “Five years later, we have given that chance to more than 1,000 teens, and now we want to reach 10,000 teens by 2013 – but we’re going to need a lot of help to get there.”
Several months ago, No Worries Now utilized social media to enrich the last weeks of life for the nonprofit’s spokesperson, Samantha Ashburn, who lost her battle with bone cancer in April, two weeks after her sixteenth birthday. The organization’s social media campaign mobilized thousands of supporters to send letters to Ashburn, and to get rapper Eminem to call Ashburn on her birthday.
No Worries Now will once again utilize social media to promote fundraising efforts as part of the “Help ‘Now’” campaign.
“A lot of the funds will be raised through grassroots methods like shirt sales,” said Scarf, who currently serves as the Chair of the Board. “We sell shirts that say ‘Ask Me What My Shirt Did.’ Each shirt is $23, which is the exact cost of sending one teen to prom.
“With grants for nonprofits being more competitive than ever and private donations at an all-time low, we need to get creative in our fundraising efforts. Using social media, the gatekeepers aren’t the board members of grant-giving foundations anymore; now the gatekeepers are my friends, their friends and their friends’ friends.”
For more information about how to support No Worries Now, or to RSVP for this year’s Now Prom in Hollywood, visit www.noworriesnow.org.