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Dressed up and dazzling, teen patients celebrate prom

Physicians, staff and the community gave teen patients a magical night Kaiser Permanente Roseville pediatric prom.

In a large conference room on the third floor of the Roseville Medical Center, neon lights shone bright. Teenage girls dressed in long gowns with spaghetti straps, and teenage boys with buttoned-up shirts tucked into black pants danced, laughed, or got a henna tattoo. A doctor turned DJ kept the music going all evening.

This was the scene at last month’s pediatric prom. It has become a much-anticipated event, now 5 years in the running, giving teenage patients a makeup for high school occasions they were too sick to enjoy.

“My heart is just exploding for these kids because many missed out on events and missed their friends while in the hospital or receiving care,” said Kim Menzel, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente Roseville. “We’re taking care of their physical needs and we’re getting them well again, but this helps the mental wellness. We hope it brings a lot of joy to them because these are sentinel moments in a teenager’s life.”

All dressed up and ready to celebrate, teenagers enjoyed Kaiser Permanente Roseville’s pediatric prom with the theme of “All Around the World.”

The night’s theme was “All Around the World,” with origami, Asian lanterns, an Eiffel Tower, and a German-themed snack bar. Physicians and staff across the medical center were among the 200 volunteers who gave time and talents. Local churches, Roseville business owners, and the community donated dresses, raffle baskets, hairstyling, makeup, corsages, and boutonnieres.

Meeting other teens who can relate

Child Life Specialist Traci Aoki-Tan is the driving force behind the event, moderating planning meetings for months before the big night.

“The prom came about because I wanted our patients to be surrounded by people who know what they are going through,” said Aoki-Tan. “Not only did I want the teens to feel special and important, but I wanted the staff to remember why we are in health care: The smiles on everyone’s faces, the full dance floor, and watching the teens take selfies and exchange numbers meant our mission was accomplished.”

High school senior Timothy Schroeder battled T-cell lymphoma. He is now cancer-free and says prom night gave him the chance to be around teens like him.

“I’m just trying to get through finals and graduate high school. I’m glad to see that there are other people who can relate and talk about our mutual experiences through cancer and all that,” said Schroeder. “I’m thankful to Kaiser for putting this on and being able to come together.”

The teen guests got to meet Sacramento King stars De’Aaron Fox, Keegan Murray and Jordan Ford as well as mascot Slamson. They all danced and posed for pictures.

“As soon as I walked in, I felt all the great energy and saw all the smiles on faces,” said Kings guard Ford, who graduated from Folsom High School. “Being from Sacramento, it means everything to be able to give back.”

Without this event, Addison Crory, 16, who fought leukemia, might not have had a prom at all.

Gianna Arvonio gets some henna art on her hand, just one of the many prom activities offered.

“I went to (traditional) school before I got sick, but I missed a lot. Now I am homeschooled, and we don’t have proms. So, this is exciting, mingling with people and making new friends or seeing old friends and just having fun dancing. Dancing is the best.”

Kent Jolly, MD, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist, treated many of the kids who attended. He has remained close with their families.

“We take great physical care [of patients] at our women and children’s center, but their mental side can always use a boost and their parents can use a boost, too,” Dr. Jolly said. “So, to see something like this is such a boost to the whole family.”


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