NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Close to 200 teens from across Louisiana attended prom Friday night, but this was no ordinary prom. It’s for young men and women who are battling or have battled cancer or blood disorders.
"It's awesome. I can't even put into words what this means to my son and my family," said Veronica Oko.
Veronica’s 15-year-old son, Philip, has leukemia.
"Every day is a miracle and I appreciate the fact I had him, even if I had him for 15 years. And I'm positive, because he's a strong fighter, he will pull through," Oko said.
Here, Philip is not alone.
Marie Turner came to support her 17-year-old son.
“He had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and this May it’ll be two years that we are in remission,” said Turner.
Kendra St. Pierre and her family waited beside the red carpet for her nephew.
“He was pretty sick, and there was one day we didn’t know if he was going to come out,” recalled St. Pierre. “It was a miracle. He’s healthy, he’s a senior, he’s graduating, he’s going to Louisiana Tech next year and his name is Joey. He’s an awesome kid.”
The Prom of Hope is an opportunity for Louisiana teens with cancer and those battling cancer to experience the excitement of a formal dance. It’s all inclusive, too, complete with hair and makeup, tuxedos and gowns, even a limo ride to the swanky affair and a chance to walk the red carpet.
“They get, like, the glamour treatment, something they might never experience again,” said mom Jaime Boudreaux.
"This is his third year. He loves it. He has so much fun because he can interact with kids who are going through the same thing so it gives him a night to just relax, have fun and be a teenagers," Turner said.
Cancer may be something they all share, but it’s not why these teens attended.
“It’s really special to witness these kids just enjoy a day being a kid,” said Saints football player and president of What You Give Will Grow Thomas Morstead.
Morstead's nonprofit hosted the event. He says personal experiences inspired him to get involved in child life events at the hospital.
“I call it the Patch Adams effect of treating kids with laughter and giving them experiences to let them not feel sick or not be reminded,” Morstead explained.
For some of the event's attendees, it's the only prom they'll know.
“It’s just a celebration of life and we’re here. Some kids don’t get to celebrate their regular proms. They may not make it. They may be in treatment,” said Boudreaux.
Yet, on this night, that's the last thing on their mind.
"Amazing men and women take the burden off your shoulders and make our kids smile for a whole day," Oko said.
For parents like Oko, that's priceless.
"I am so sure, here or in heaven, my son is going to be fine," said Oko.
Morstead says he signs the check but the majority of work that goes into the event is done by volunteers.