As I walked to my car Friday, I waved into the tinted windows of two limos heading to the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Cleveland. A red carpet awaited the young men and women dressed in their finest attire. They were on their way to “A Prom to Remember.”
Jane Knausz, a photographer from Mentor, took it upon herself to organize the special night for teens and young adults touched by cancer after hearing about a similar event in Ft. Lauderdale. Just about everything – including the dresses, tuxes, entertainment, food, limos, and salon services – were donated. Patients from Akron Children’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital received invitations and each was allowed to bring a date, sibling or friend – just no parents.
I had the privilege of watching Akron Children’s patients getting ready in one of the hospital’s conference room – which looked and smelled more like a beauty salon given the proliferation of nail polish, hair spray, curling irons, make-up and mirrors. As it typically goes, the girls with straight hair were opting for curls while the girls with curls were all about having a sleek, straight style for their big night.
Kayli Hostetler, 17, of Orrville, who has been fighting cancer most of her childhood, emerged Cinderella-like in a bright pink ball gown, with eye-catching brunette curls. When she heard about the prom, she knew her date had to be her best friend, Jenni Gold, 15. Jenni chose a classic black dress – the perfect complement to her pretty red hair.
Kayli, Jenni and the other girls received VIP attention from hair stylist Tricia Degenhard and eight of her friends wearing blue t-shirts identifying themselves as “Taylor’s Angels.” The group has volunteered to do special things for Akron Children’s since Degenhard’s 5-year-old daughter, Taylor, died of cancer five years ago.
While the girls enjoyed manicures and facials and chatted about all-things Justin Bieber, the boys killed time with iPods and smartphones.
Josh Golobek, a 9th grader at Nordonia High School, selected retro-looking spectator shoes to wear with his tux. As he posed for photos with his friend, Stephen Romanik, against the downtown Akron skyline, his mom joked with the boys about “picking up chicks” at the prom.
Guys, just be thankful Justin Bieber isn’t the headliner.
Some of these kids have had to miss their own proms – and lots of other fun stuff – because of chemo, radiation, hair loss and other side effects of cancer. So, as pediatric psychologist Laura Gerak said, this was a night to spoil, pamper and celebrate them.
Ashlee Provchy, 12, of Akron, had a particularly rough week of chemo, which made it difficult to talk above a whisper and eat on the night of the prom. But Ashlee had been looking forward to the prom for weeks and had a sophisticated black and white print dress (like something out of an Audrey Hepburn movie), a new clutch purse and French manicure to show off. As she took the arm of her escort, her 20-year-old brother, Patrick, their parents beamed with pride as Ashley and Patrick posed for photos.
It’s not every day you get to dress up, walk the red carpet, and dance the night away with friends. Thanks for Jane and her team for including Akron Children’s patients in this magical night at the Ritz.