Three years ago, Allison O’Hara was diagnosed with an autoimmune neuropathy disease, an illness that left her hospitalized for several months. Through this experience, Allison knew she wanted to give back to those who made the weight of her trying times a little lighter. That’s when Allison became involved in Hospital Prom, an annual event for children and teen patients hosted by the Phyllis and David Komansky Center for Children’s Health of New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Allison’s stay at the hospital was anything but easy. Having been very sick and bound to a wheelchair, close friendships and a supportive staff were of vital importance. As Allison recalls, “the staff hosted fun activities in attempt to make a long term hospital stay more comfortable.” These activities helped Allison cope and ultimately encouraged her to participate in the planning of Hospital Prom.
Hospital Prom, the event Allison now helps plan, is a one-night event for patients battling long-term and life-threatening illnesses. With routine trips to the hospital, many patients are restrained from involvement in everyday activities, some even as serious as not being able to attend school let alone participate in important traditions like school dances.
As Allison puts it, “the prom gives them the chance to have a normal experience. For some of these kids, it will be the only prom they can attend due to their critical condition.”
The first prom was thrown during Allison’s stay at the hospital back in 2014. Despite being very ill and bound to a wheelchair, Allison remembers the event as “the most fun [she] had had in a while” and was inspired to help plan future proms.
While the inaugural prom was organized by the hospital, the annual events are now organized by a teen council which includes Allison and other young people. She now helps brainstorm prom themes, invitation designs, goodie-bags, and – her favorite – decide what food will be served!
In addition to all of the hard work that goes into planning the event, the prom itself is far more than a night of dancing. Hair, makeup, and nail professionals come in to glam up the patients for an eventful night. Last year, 120 patients attended and were provided with formal attire. Boys got to choose their tuxedos and girls got to choose their dresses from a vast selection. Prom attendees walked down a red carpet, complete with a photographer. The night was filled with video games, basketball competitions, a DJ, and of course, a dance floor!
In Allison’s words, “it’s a night to get out of your hospital room and have fun. Dancing and socializing with other people your age, definitely, beats being confined to a hospital bed worrying about medical complications.”
While Allison is still a patient herself, having to make routine visits to the hospital for her treatments, she is helping to create a warmer environment there for herself and her peers. Through her kind efforts, she has been able to help throw an event that every patient will remember.
The fourth Hospital Prom will take place this June and will be Allison’s third time participating. Keep up the great work Allison and the Teen Council!