Annual Prom Gives Teen Patients a Night of Glamour Away from Hospital Bed

Adella Clark, 16, a kidney transplant patient at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, gets her blood pressure checked before she goes downstairs to the prom.

By Juliana Bunim on May 03, 2013

Sixteen-year-old Adella Clark had a kidney transplant just one week earlier, but that wasn’t going to stop her from attending her first prom. Luckily, the prom was just downstairs from her hospital room at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.  

The annual event – the only hospital teen prom in the Bay Area – transformed the Moffitt Cafeteria on April 19 into a glow-in-the-dark themed nightclub, complete with a photo booth, dance floor, high top tables and DJ spinning the latest hits.

The Moffitt Cafeteria was transformed with a glow-in-the-dark

theme for the April 19 prom.

For Adella, the prom had been years in the making. A patient during last year’s prom festivities, she was unable to join her fellow teens because she was in isolation, having just had both kidneys removed.

So when her kidney transplant happened to coincide with this year’s prom, there was no stopping her partaking in all of the festivities, from a styling session by Banana Republic to professional hair and makeup services, and of course, the prom itself.

The prom was first conceived several years ago by UCSF Child Life Specialists Lisa Gray and Tiffany Martorana, who felt that teens at the hospital needed something dedicated specifically for them.

“Hospitalized teens turn into adults before they’re ready,” said Gray. “Teens don’t want a visit from Snow White, they want a way to spend time with each other.”

The prom is a continuation of a teen-focused, multi-year project at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. The Child Life Department recognizes the integral role hospital child life programs play in the healing process and works with children, teens and their families to ensure that each child's developmental and emotional needs are met during their hospital stays.

While the prom relied on the support of the entire Child Life Department and prom committee members Gina Ditto, Audrey Muntz, Tiffany Martorana and Eve Alley, this year’s event called on participation from the entire UCSF community as well.

Teens line up for the photo booth at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital prom.

“Child Life may throw the prom, but everyone in the community and the hospital is committed,” said Gray. “Anyone who hears about it is so invested, from catering to housekeeping to facilities management which needs to make sure we have enough power for all the hairdryers and flatirons. They are all on board and 100 percent in. We’re throwing it together.”

Many members of the community donated their time and resources to make the prom a success. Prom attendees were dressed to the nines thanks to Banana Republic, which donated $75,000 worth of clothes. Through an ongoing collaboration with Banana Republic Merchants, outfits including suits, dresses and more than 150 pieces of accessories were donated for the teens. Sayareh Farsio of Banana Republic flagship store’s Special Services and her team, Nanci Milton Fitterman and Toni Encarnacion, helped style the teens for the third year.

Hospitalized teens had the opportunity to have their hair and makeup professionally done by Honeycomb Salon and Bryan Roberts Salon. And every teen left the prom with a gift bag stocked with items like iTunes gift cards, picture frames, makeup and sport watches.

Banana Republic donated $75,000 worth of clothing and

accessories, as well as styling services, for the prom.

Many of the teens at the dance had missed their own high school proms because they were hospitalized, and treasured the opportunity to feel like a teenager and not a patient, even if for only a night.

Eden Finn, 15, is missed 8th and 9th grade while being treated for leukemia, spending months at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in treatment, receiving a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. Like Adella, she was also a patient during prom last year, but couldn’t attend the dance due to isolation precautions. But this year she was on the dance floor with several of her friends, including kidney transplant patient Briana Fitzpatrick, 15.

“This is so cool, and definitely the happiest I’ve ever been walking down these hospital halls,” said Finn.

And while Adella loved the hospital prom, exclaiming “I had a blast and made new friends!” she also hopes the next one is in a school gym instead. “I was on dialysis for four years waiting for my kidney,” she said. “I don’t want to be in the hospital again for a long, long time.”

Thank you to major supporters for this event, Banana Republic and Salesforce.com Foundation.

Additionally, many thanks to: UCSF Partners in Care, Royal Motors, Bare Escentuals, Tina Perry, Brenda Bottum, Annika Kelly Strain Foundation, Susie Cakes, Boutique 68, Got Light?, Abbey Rents, Moffitt Catering, Video Amusement, DJ Matteo, UCSF Parking, SF Party Rental, Paper and Ink Printing, Keith B Dixon Photographic Inc., Goorin Bros. Hat Shop and Best Buy.

Photos by Juliana Bunim