Miller Children’s & Women’s teen patients affected 
by cancer “glow” at prom

Prom King and Queen, Tomek Faleofa, 17, and Eldy Fajardo, 17, beam with excitement as they accept their sashes and prizes. Courtesy photo.

On Saturday, March 16, in partnership with A Friend in Me Foundation, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, hosted “Let’s Glow Crazy” Prom 2019 for teen and young adult patients affected by cancer and serious blood disorders.

Current and former patients ages 14 -23 and their closest friends enjoyed a glow-in-the-dark
themed prom night filled with selfies, a photo booth, mock-tails, a red carpet, candy bar and dancing to the latest jams.

Teens affected by cancer and blood disorders often miss out on high school and teenage experiences like prom. This event allowed patients and their families a “cancer-free” experience that focused on teens just being teens.

A Friend in Me Foundation partners with high school and college students, as well as local businesses to help provide the full prom experience for patients. From prom dress and tuxedo fittings, to organizing hair, make-up and nails on the day of the event.

“I’ve been really excited for this event for weeks,” says Eldy Fajardo, 17, Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute patient. “I spend a lot of time in the hospital and miss my friends and family. This event brings prom to us and I get to see friends, dress up and just have fun.”

Eldy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2014 and has been in and out of the hospital ever since for treatment.

The Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute at Miller Children’s & Women’s has a Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program for adolescents, like Eldy, coping with the unique challenges that patients in this age group have to deal with like missing out on high school experiences. Through this program, patients have access to the latest treatment alternatives and clinical trials to enhance outcomes, as well as expert psychological care specifically for their age group, school re-integration and college counseling.

“It’s an amazing night for our kids and for our team,” says Allison Singhi, child life specialist, Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program. “It’s something they can look forward to and take their mind off treatment. They get to let loose, dance and be in the moment.”

Neeharika “Nikki” Pendekanti and her husband Raj, founded A Friend in Me Foundation after losing their son, Rupesh, to leukemia in 2007. They were inspired by their son’s spirit and love of community during his hospitalization and wanted to make a difference.

“We started this as a way to give some normalcy to these kids,” says Pendekanti. “With the help of our volunteers, local donors, sponsors and the Miller Children’s & Women’s team, we are able to put together an amazing event and give these inspiring kids some of their childhood back.”

This article was released by MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.