Prom night! Such a staple in our culture for teenagers. An event we parents look as much forward to as the children do. Prom is a rite of passage. The moment they enter senior year, prom is a prominent topic of conversation for the kids. Girls start looking for dresses and boys start looking for which trend to follow….the no-sock-and-shoes trend was a big one this year.
Prom is a “normal” activity that we all do, right? Well, not every kid gets to go to prom, and in our busy lives, we forget about those kids. We take for granted the normalcy in our lives. We don’t think about the kids who can’t make it to prom night because of a serious illness they are battling. We don’t think about immune systems that can’t handle being around hundreds of healthy kids. These kids are missing out on prom night – a rite of passage!
Thankfully, the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation stepped in for the teenagers in their hospital. This past May, the foundation decided to throw a prom for its teenage patients – a real prom with a DJ, catered food, pictures, dresses and tuxedos. “You expect excellent clinical care at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. They have a reputation for that. Child life is clinical care meeting compassion, making sure when they leave the hospital they are not missing out on too many things from life. They don’t want kids resenting the hospital. They want kids to think of the hospital as their family. Hence, the idea of prom came to life. The child life specialists have to think of everything. This is not as simple as just throwing a party. They have to take into consideration types of foods, how kids who have eating difficulties can’t swallow foods that others can, and how that can make them feel different or out of place at the event. All these different things, like floral, balloons…the depth these child life therapists have to know these kids to make sure they are all walking into a safe place is incredible.” – Melissa
My friend, Melissa Anthony, who is an epic human, works for the foundation. There are two parts of her job: one is to make sure the people who are already donating to the hospital or involved in some way understand how they are making an impact and making sure they are engaging appropriately; the other part is going into the community and making the community aware of their mission and explaining why the foundation is special and why it’s worth investing your time in it. She explained how people come to her and ask how they can help, and she shows people how to start. “You don’t have to invest $100,000 in order to help. $10 or $20 is great! Investing your time volunteering is great!” says Melissa.
Back in April, Melissa shared with me that the foundation was doing prom for the first time. They didn’t want to make it a big, public event because this was about the kids, not about fundraising nor promoting the foundation. They didn’t want to promote this event. This was something being done totally altruistically to make sure the kids didn’t miss out and get to dress up and feel beautiful. However, they came across kids who wanted to participate in the event but couldn’t afford buying clothes, and that’s when she reached out to the Lake Nona Run Club, which she is a part of, and a few close friends to help out. In less than 48 hours, we had raised $1,200 for the five kids who couldn’t afford to go shopping for prom night. “What I really loved about it was the heart of the club and this community. It was all about ‘thank you for giving me the opportunity to help.’ It wasn’t about ‘show me pictures,’ it was about being able to help.”
Prom night came. XL106.7 provided a DJ, and the kids had a great time dancing the night away. They got to feel glamorous, and they got to feel normal for a few hours. They even had a parents’ zone, at a separate room in the hospital, so the kids really got to experience prom as it is! No parents allowed! The foundation catered to the parents and the siblings as well with food and massage chairs. “Knowing that we were able to help parents give their kids a sense of normalcy was almost as gratifying as what we were doing for the kids,” Melissa said.
Now that they have done this and the kids received it so well, the foundation will do it again. Typically, teenagers get less attention in hospitals. People gravitate towards sick babies or sick little kids, but it is almost as if they think teenagers are old enough to understand their situation and handle it. We forget they are still kids having to face their own mortality on a daily basis. Let that sink in.
If you want to learn more about how to get involved with The Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation, feel free to contact Melissa Anthony at email@example.com.