The Outlook: LCF Resident Helps Organize ‘Now Prom’ For Ill Teens

La Cañada High School graduate Marta Belcher was recently named executive director of No Worries Now, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that will hold its fifth annual prom for teens with life-threatening illnesses on June 29.

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 formal wear for guests as well as traditional corsages and boutonnieres. Nearly 500 teens are expected to attend the prom, which the nonprofit has held annually since 2007.

Belcher, who is entering her fourth year as a rhetoric student at the University of California, Berkeley, joined the nonprofit in 2008 as a member of the Board of Directors. She helped put on the 2009 Now Prom in San Francisco and last year’s prom in Los Angeles, which was held at Sony Studios and attended by 200 teens with life-threatening illnesses ranging from cancer to HIV.

“For many of the teens who attend the Now Prom, this is the one night a year they can just be kids,” Belcher said. “Every other day of the year, they’re patients. Most of them would be unable to attend their own proms, either because of their treatment schedules, or because they won’t live long enough. We provide them with a space where everyone can sympathize with what they’re going through, so they can feel comfortable enough to dance the night away.”

For the past several years, Belcher has been spearheading No Worries Now’s efforts to expand the organization’s mission. Belcher has been developing the “Now Pairs” program, inspired by the time she spent with No Worries Now spokesperson Samantha Ashburn, who passed away in April of bone cancer just two weeks after her 16th birthday.

“We want to give these patients the opportunity to let go of their worries and just be teens all throughout the year — not just on prom night,” Belcher said. “We will pair patients with teen volunteers and send them on monthly outings, both as pairs and as a larger group. The culmination of the yearlong program will be the Now Prom, which we think will be a more meaningful experience because of all the connections they will have made throughout the year.”

No Worries Now will launch the pilot program in the Bay Area this August, leading up to the 2012 Now Prom in San Francisco.

“The Pair Program is part of a larger campaign, which we’re calling ‘Help Now’ and launching at this year’s prom,” Belcher said. “We’re trying to give 10,000 teens ‘no worries now’ by 2013. We have already reached 1,000 through our past proms. We’re growing rapidly, and the next step is to hold proms throughout the country through our ‘Prom in a Box’ program, which will give volunteers the resources they need to throw their own Now Proms in their areas.”

Belcher said that a large part of the campaign will involve grassroots fundraising efforts through social media.

“It’s a lofty goal,” Belcher said. “And of course, we’re going to need a lot of help getting there.”

For more information about becoming a No Worries Now donor or volunteer, contact Marta Belcher at martabelcher@gmail.com or visit noworriesnow.org.