Teens from hospitals across New England forgot about their cancer and danced the night away at A Prom to Remember Friday evening. The teens got glammed up in gowns and tuxedos, hopped in limos and headed to the Ritz-Carlton where they were met by celebrity guests to walk them down the red carpet.
A Prom to Remember is organized by The Unforgettable Prom Foundation, a charity that hosts proms across the country for teens fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Most kids fighting cancer miss out on typical high school memories like prom and homecoming, so these proms give them reason to get dressed up and go out with their friends.
Among the celebrity entourage were Miss Massachusetts, local model Kim Howe, Voice
winner James Massone and four New England Revolution soccer players. Lori Earl, mother of Esther Earl whose story inspired the new movie “A Fault In Our Stars,” was there to mingle with attendees and to crown the Prom Queen and King.
“I’m really excited about this event,” Earl said. “Esther never got to go to a prom. She wasn’t in school very much because she was sick so going to prom wasn’t really a thought.”
After walking down the red carpet, the attendees had dinner, took photos in the photobooth and danced all night. A few attendees already knew eachother from treatment but the night offered the teens an opportunity to meet other teenagers who understand their experience.
“It’s fun being here,” Liam Talbot, a patient at Mass General Hospital, said. “[My date and I] both have medical issues that make us low-energy so we don’t get to go to events like this very often.” His date, Maddie Worden, is a patient at Tufts Medical Center.
“I never get out of my house cause I’m usually in the hosptial or sick,” Erin Harkins, a 17-year old patient at Dana Farber Cancer Instititue said. “It’s nice to dance a little again.”
Harkins was a competitive dancer before being diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a bone cancer in her left hip, last December.
“One day I was in the middle of one of my dances and I just fell and I didn’t know why. They thought I was dehydrated or something so they took me to the hospital,” Harkins said. “Basically they told me I was faking it. But then two weeks later it got worse and I went to the South Shore Medical Center. They took scans and a week later called me to tell me to come in. I went and that’s when I got diagnosed.”
Harkins has her final radiation treatment on Monday (woohoo!) and finishes chemotherapy in early fall. She hopes to dance again before her 18th birthday in September.
“This is the first time I’ve danced since [I was diagnosed],” Harkins said. “It’s been hard. I’ve just stood in one spot because I don’t want to fall. It’s happy though, too.”
She wasn’t about to let cancer ruin her night though. Harkins was running the dance floor. The girl can dougie.
“I have a wig but my date convinced me not to wear it tonight,” Harkins said. “I used to have long blonde hair.”
If anyone can work bald, it’s Harkins. She wore a sparkling headband that matched her floor length gown. The gowns and tuxedos were donated through dress drives organized by the foundation, Wendy Nichols, Boston Chair of A Prom to Remember said.
This was Boston’s inaugural prom and the organization plans to continue to host proms in more cities across the country.