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Prom Makes Memories for Children’s Hospital Patients

Strong Kids Newsletter

Prom 2014

Cameras snapped and flashed as the “paparazzi” captured the arrival of about 75 very special prom-goers at the Strathallan Hotel. It was the 2nd annual Golisano Children’s Hospital prom, held on April 5, 2014, for young women and men, who due to hospitalization or chronic illness, missed big life events. The Hollywood theme was the perfect glamorous backdrop for a night of memory-making.

The prom is the brainchild of C.A.V.E., the Council for Adolescent Voices and Experiences, a group of teen patients formed to give the hospital input on what it can do to address the specific needs of adolescents in the hospital.

“They told us they were continually missing out on big life events, and they wanted a night for themselves to make memories,” said Jessie Biondi, a child life specialist and coordinator of the C.A.V.E. program.

Social workers and physicians recommended and medically cleared the patients who were invited to the prom. Aside from needing the teens to be medically stable, the only limitation volunteers couldn’t accommodate was for patients who required one-on-one support. C.A.V.E. and prom volunteers worked hard to be as inclusive as possible.

Guitar winnerC.A.V.E. members picked the theme and worked with staff volunteers to make the night extra special, with a photo booth, paparazzi-filled red carpet, and incredible auction items – including a guitar signed by the Goo Goo Dolls and a t-shirt signed by Channing Tatum. Throughout the night, staff volunteers – nurses, child life staff, physicians – gave prom-goers raffle tickets for auction items when they danced, played games and made the effort to get to know each other.

Rosie Obi, the hospital’s music therapist and a prom volunteer, said that parents really appreciated that the majority of the volunteers were staff they already knew from the hospital. “They trust us,” Obi said. “They had no qualms about sending their kids for a fun night out with us.”

The highlight of the night was the interaction between hospital staff volunteers and the patients.

“They look forward to seeing staff outside of the hospital, to be able to dance and play games with the people who are usually treating them for their illnesses,” Biondi said. “We look forward to it too. We love seeing them be typical teenagers. That’s why we put so much time and effort into making this prom happen for our patients.”

The Department of Pediatrics is funding the 3rd annual Golisano Children’s Hospital prom, and planning is already underway. For more information about the prom or C.A.V.E., email