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Cancer survivors experience A Prom to Remember

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You could almost hear Barbra Streisand belting out, “Don’t Rain on my Parade,” or, for this generation, perhaps Glee star Lea Michele’s rendition is more familiar.

But, the rain didn’t seem to dampen the excitement as 75 young women and men made their way to limos parked outside Akron Children’s Considine Professional Building last Friday.

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They were headed to downtown Cleveland and the Prom to Remember, an annual event for pediatric cancer patients from Akron Children’s Hospital, Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic and their guests.

Many of the girls arrived early to have volunteers do their hair, make-up and nails.

One of those volunteers is Tricia Degenhard, who owns a beauty salon in North Canton, and loves helping Akron Children’s Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders whenever possible.

Tricia and her team of “Taylor’s Angels” volunteer in memory of Tricia’s daughter, Taylor, who lost her battle with cancer in 2008 at age 5.

The girls were radiant in dresses of every color. Whether long and elegant or short and sassy, the vibrant hues seemed to announce spring’s arrival. The boys used colorful ties and cummerbunds to add pizzazz to their tuxedos.

Shannon Bitskay, 13, chose a sleeveless purple gown covered with sequins while her sister, Nicole, 15, opted for a green halter style dress with beautiful beading.

The prom came almost a year to date since Shannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoblastic lymphoma, said Shannon’s mother, Jeanine.

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Attendees not only looked like movie stars but got to make an Oscar worthy entrance to the Ritz Carlton via a red carpet. They also got to enjoy dinner, music, dancing, and other entertainment late into the night.

Much of all evening was made possible through the donations of people who hoped in some small way to bring cheer to these strong young cancer patients and survivors.

Even the dresses worn by most of the girls were donated by area high school students.

The cycle of generosity began with Clevelander Jane Knausz, who had heard of a similar event in Florida, and began making phone calls to friends and colleagues in northeast Ohio. She owns a photography business and had the right contacts with everyone – from florists to caterers.

This was the 4th year for the northeast Ohio prom and, according to hematology/oncology child life specialist Brenda Powell, this year marked the highest participation among Akron Children’s patients.

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