Sunday, May 5, 2013

Operation Prom

Spring is here! It's the season of allergies, warmer weather, and Proms! Ah yes, I remember my Junior and Senior Proms. There was so much excitement in planning the whole evening out. Who would be my date? What color dress would I wear, with which strappy high-heeled sandal? Hair up or down? And which lovely duo would win prom king and queen? Most high-schoolers have been looking forward to this event for years, and it's no different for teens who have been living in a hospital, being treated for terminal illness.

We decided on a red called "I tripped on the red carpet" haha
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Montefiore Children's Hospital in the Bronx. Operation Prom wanted to make sure that these sick kids got the same prom experience as healthy peers had. Operation Prom was founded in 2005, and their mission is to "provide resources, opportunity and mentoring to students in need." This organization helps those who are in poor financial standing or health celebrate the right of passage that is prom. And help they did. When I arrived, I found a group of beautiful young ladies gathered around a large table covered in makeup, jewelry and nail polish. Many were still in hospital gowns with IVs in tow. There was a buzz of excitement in the air. What girl doesn't love to get all dolled up? My teen queen and I also made many room visits to those who wouldn't be attending prom, hoping to at least brighten up their day for a moment.

Impressed by the great nail art going on!
Man. Those two hours I spent at that hospital have had such an effect on me. For that period of time, all of my stresses and problems were insignificant. This experience puts it all in perspective. These are teens with hopes and dreams and crushes and insecurities same as anyone else. They are forced to grow up very quickly as they battle illness these young bodies shouldn't see for several more decades. So, we need to preserve their childhood anyway that we can. Yesterday, my mission was to make every child smile. I pulled out my one-liners, made fun of myself, and even told my muffin joke (for those of you who know it, it's not funny, and kids laugh at how bad it is). Seeing their eyes light up, seeing their parents' eyes light up is such a gratifying experience.

And then I started thinking about volunteerism. As Miss NY USA I get to participate in many  philanthropic projects that help those in my community. And after every time, I leave with a full heart and a renewed sense of faith in people. We should all spend a few hours a week focusing our attention and efforts on others. Because it's in that giving that we truly experience a return.

I encourage you all to visit . Your old prom dresses, suits, donations and time are greatly appreciated and can bring so much joy into the lives of those who need it most.

Loved their dresses!!
My best friend, Taylor! She lives in Hell's Kitchen too!
And now for my own embarrassing prom pictures...

With my date, John.

On Prom Court, making a stank face. Not sure why haha.