Stony Brook Children’s Gives Teens a Night of Fun and Camaraderie at Annual Prom
Stony Brook Children’s Hospital rolled out the red carpet for teens to have a glamorous night of fun during its annual prom June 8.
This year’s theme, “A Night in Paris,” transformed a Stony Brook University ballroom into the streets of France. Hospital staff and prom guests donned berets and boas for the evening, which included a catered buffet of chicken cordon bleu, crepes and chocolate fondue, among other selections.
The menu and theme are planned annually by a multidisciplinary hospital team, which also includes the hospital’s Youth Advisory Council. The council is comprised of teens who want to give back to the hospital and enhance the experiences of other patients their age.
“We want to provide kids an experience where they can spend time with people they’re familiar with from their time in the hospital and to socialize with others that have been through similar situations,” said Joan Alpers, MPS, CCLS, LCAT, director of Child Life Services at Stony Brook Children’s. “Beyond that, it gives them a chance to be recognized and feel special outside of the hospital setting. They can just be kids here.”
Before the event began, volunteers from the New York Institute of Beauty made sure every teen had their dream hairdo, makeup and nail color. Then, when everyone was ready, they made their big entrance as the DJ cheered, “Welcome to grand Paris!”
Some of the students eagerly hit the dance floor, while others lounged and chatted on sofas. Table hockey, arcade basketball, caricature artists and a French-themed photo booth were all on hand as well.
The event is a welcomed respite for attendees, many of whom said they were glad for a safe way to experience prom.
"Even if you're in the hospital or having treatments, you can still come to this prom,” explained 13-year-old Delaney Unger, a hospital patient and member of the Youth Advisory Council. “A lot of people who are sick don't get to go to their prom because they need medical support, but that's not an issue here. We have nurses that come and we’re close to the hospital."
Hazel Avelar, 14, has looked forward to attending since she saw a video of a past prom on YouTube. Hazel and her sister, 15-year-old Karen, have both received care at Stony Brook Children’s.
“A lot of people at school don't understand what it's like to deal with an illness, but here we're surrounded by people going through the same thing. They get it," Hazel said.
For Delaney, programs for teens in the hospital have allowed her to meet other people that share her medical history.
“I’ve made a lot of friends here [at the hospital], and we’ve been able to keep in touch since then. Events like prom help people to make new friends and stay connected.”
Jessica Viola, 22, looks forward to the celebration every year. “I've gone to every prom we’ve had here and I love it,” Jessica said. “It’s very special to me.”