At the Starlight Prom in Atlanta on April 28, about 70 teenagers will gather in elegant dresses or tuxedos. The gathering will have all the trappings of the annual high school ritual.
The only difference is that all of the invitees to this party are chronically ill 15- to 18-year-olds who have been in and out of the two hospitals that make up Children's Health Care of Atlanta (at Egleston and Scottish Rite).
Sponsored by the Atlanta chapter of the Starlight Children's Foundation, an international nonprofit organization that provides entertainment and activities for pediatric patients, the prom is in its fourth year, according to Larry Bloustein, the director of communications for the Los Angeles, Calif.-based foundation.
Starlight is careful to differentiate the event from other gatherings that the foundation sponsors. "This is a prom, not a hospital party," Mr. Bloustein explained.
To give the teenagers the same experience as students attending a regular high school prom, the foundation has rented American Legion Post No. 140, located about halfway between the two hospitals.
Some of the chronically ill teenagers are home-schooled, while others feel awkward about attending their own schools' proms because of their illnesses, said Starlight Atlanta's executive director, Janis Abernathy. The event is a way to give the teenagers a chance "to be treated like normal kids ... to focus on having a good time," Ms. Abernathy said.
The California Pizza Kitchen and other firms are donating food for the festivities. Starlight will provide decorations, corsages, a photographer, and other prom musts.
This year's theme is "Millennium Masquerade," and the guests may dress either in prom attire or theme- appropriate costumes.
One of the invitees, an 18-year-old named Heather, said she had fun buying her dress and accessories. The event is special, she said. "I never thought I'd have the opportunity to go to a prom."
Vol. 19, Issue 31, Page 3