NORWOOD — Just because a teenager has a chronic illness doesn't mean that he or she will have to miss the prom.
The Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center will turn the institution's Grand Hall into a prom venue Saturday for its chronically ill patients ages 12 to 21. Limos will pick up the attendees for this year's dance, which starts at 6 p.m.
This is the fifth year the medical center has held such an event, which has had a different theme each year. The theme for 2014 is "under the big top." The Grand Hall will be covered in a circus tent and filled with acrobats, jugglers, unicyclists and large prop elephants.
"I get ideas from kids that have been in the past about what they want to see happen in the future," said Lindsay Davis, child life specialist at Montefiore. "We take that into consideration when we’re thinking about what we want to do."
The celebration is meant to be a way for Montefiore's patients to experience an aspect of growing up that they might miss out on otherwise, based on the amount of time they have to spend in the hospital.
"It's great for them to socialize with kids their own age who also understand what they're going through," Davis said. "Kids can come with IV Poles, and they're not going to be the only kid there with an IV Pole. If girls still want to wear their wigs, they're not going to be the only ones there that don't have hair."
About 75 people normally show up for the event. Dresses are donated by Operation PROM, an organization established to help low-income students attend the prom, and tuxedo rentals come free of charge from Men's Wearhouse. Operation PROM sponsors hair, nails and makeup as well.
Kendra Suazo, a 13-year-old girl living with the blood disorder sickle cell disease, went to the prom last year and plans to go this year as well. She remembered good music and candy from the 2013 festivities, she said — especially the Skittles.
Although Kendra's mom, Karla Suazo, said she did not feel well the day of last year's celebration, she still managed to make it to the dance.
"The day of the prom, she woke up not feeling good, but she went downstairs. She danced; she ate; she made friends; and she came back pooped out," Karla Suazo said. "I wish I could go."