Children’s Mercy patients get a prom of their own
Taylor Scott and Alyssa Williamson, both 17, looked like Hollywood starlets ready to stroll the red carpet.
Their hair and makeup had been professionally done and each was dressed in a long glamorous gown. But unlike most teenage girls getting ready for prom, each had an intravenous needle poking from her hand and a hospital identification band around her wrist.
Trista Williams, child life program coordinator at Children’s Mercy, came up with the idea for a hospital prom eight months ago.
“I had a vision that I think we need a prom,” she said. “We have a lot of patients here who can’t go to their normal high school events, and we really wanted to do something special for them. They have chronic conditions that keep them home sick, or they’re in the hospital. So this is a way for them to go to a big life event that they’re missing because of their condition.”
That vision became reality Friday evening when about 30 teenagers entered a hospital activity room transformed into a space befitting its theme: “A Night With the Stars.” Landers Visions, an event production company, had covered the walls with gauzy fabric and installed a disco ball that sprinkled moving beads of colored light around the room.
Jennifer Bertrand, an HGTV star and local designer, emceed the event, DJ Ashton Martin deejayed, and Sporting KC players acted as dates. Patients could step outside and get their photos taken by Interstate Photography, pretty much like any other prom.
“Once people heard ‘Children’s Mercy Prom’ we had so many people say, ‘What can we do to be a part of it? What can we do to help?’" Williams said. "I could not do it without all these people. The deejay, the photographers, they’re all here on their own time."
Staff members and volunteers working the event were dressed all in black, including Williams who was running around in a black cocktail dress and high heels doing last-minute tasks.
Earlier in the afternoon, Taylor sat in a chair in her room, as Emmy Fernandes, a hairstylist and wife of Sporting KC forward Gerso Fernandes, pinned and curled her hair. Olivia Diehl, fan services manager at Sporting KC, knelt before Taylor, applying makeup.
“Do you want these curls tucked in or do you want them hanging down kind of messy?” Fernandes asked.
“Up,” said Taylor, who is shy and soft-spoken. She had been in the hospital for two weeks but had only decided to go to the hospital prom a few hours before.
Taylor was presented with several donated gowns, and picked the red one. A volunteer seamstress tailored it to her on-site with a sewing machine she’d brought along.
Taylor has a rare disease that affects her gastrointestinal tract and requires her to be hospitalized at least twice a year.
Her mother, Christina Decker, was thrilled about the prom. As luck would have it, Taylor was going to be released from the hospital later Friday night, right after the soiree. And since she had the dress and the fancy hairdo, well ... her mother made last-minute arrangements for her to also attend her prom at Holden High School on Saturday night.
Taylor, who initially didn’t want to go to the hospital prom, was suddenly excited by the back-to-back events.
“When I’m in the hospital, I miss a lot of school,” she said. “And sometimes I lose some friends, because I’m not like everyone else. It’s hard sometimes, but I deal with it.”
“It’s so nice to see her smile,” Decker said, gazing at her daughter, sheathed in the red floor-length gown and donning Decker’s blue and brown cowgirl boots.
One floor up, Alyssa Williamson, 17, of Liberty modeled her black gown in her hospital room. It featured crystals that encircled her tiny waist.
Her parents, David and Kathy Williamson, stood nearby smiling. Alyssa found her braided hairstyle on Pinterest and had picked a floral gown from the hospital's donated assortment several days ago.
But her mother urged her to try on the sleek black gown, Alyssa said. "And I'm glad I did because as soon as I put it on, I loved it.”
A few minutes earlier, while she was in the bathroom getting ready, her dad noted that Alyssa was excited for the evening's festivities.
“She is a bit down because she got bad news (from doctors) yesterday so this is an opportunity to not worry about it for awhile,” he said.
Dakota Brown, 17, of Independence gets dialysis three times a week, and was getting the treatment late Friday afternoon with his parents, Karen and Les Brown, and his girlfriend, Angel Bass, 15, of Independence sitting around him.
Dakota was shirtless, but would soon be donning a tuxedo — courtesy of Tip Top Tux — and he was excited to be able to take Bass, who was wearing a floral sundress.
“It’s probably the only prom I will ever go to,” he said.
“I’m excited for him,” said Karen. “He has been excited about this all week, and he’s had so many health obstacles, so it’s great to have him get to do this.”