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Making a Prom Dream Come True for Chronically Ill

West Potomac student coordinates a No Worries Now Prom.

— Four days before her June 15 graduation from West Potomac High School, Sara Sanders was at the Washington D.C. No Worries Now Prom that she coordinated with the help of local donations and volunteers.

Sanders said she organized the prom, which was held at the Top of the Town in Alexandria, for the No Worries Now Organization, which is a non-profit based in Los Angeles.

"The D.C. prom was for teens with life-threatening and chronic illnesses," Sanders said, who has been involved in the organization for a few years.

"No Worries Now is a non-profit organization," Executive Director Marta Belcher said. "We put on proms for teens with life-threatening illnesses who may not live long enough to attend their own proms."

She added that this year is No Worries Now's sixth annual prom season.

"We've done it in LA and in San Francisco in the past," Belcher said. "This year, we had something called Prom in a Box, where we gave volunteers around the country the tools and support they need to throw Now proms in their cities."

Sanders was the volunteer for Washington D.C.

"Sara is an incredible volunteer," Belcher said. "She heard about us on CNN and she is amazing. She is really, really mature and she volunteered to put on the prom in Washington D.C. She did all the groundwork for it which was a lot of work and the event was really fabulous."

Sanders said the organization asked her if she'd like to plan the D.C. prom and she accepted the challenge. "So that's how that came about," she said. "The process of organizing it involved them giving me a list of what I needed to get done."

She said she also did research on her own and pulled together a group of volunteers to help at the actual event, who were all West Potomac High School students themselves.

She also said she "had a great response of people donating the venue and other services like the caterer, and so on."

Sanders also said there were weekly conference calls since the previous August to make sure the event would go off without a hitch.

"I had been working on this since the August before, so I’d been working on it for just under a year." Sanders said.

Due to HIPAA laws, Sanders said she could not put together a list of actual invitees but she was able to work with Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. hospitals who spread the word.

"What we did was work with local hospitals and they extended the invitation on our behalf," Sanders said.

She said she was really pleased with the number of guests.

"It was a really great turnout," she said. "Fifty people showed up."

She herself was at the prom, too, because she "had to make sure everything went smoothly and we had a lot of high school volunteers as well."

Not only was Sanders pleased with the number of attendees, but she said the evening's activities went flawlessly.

"It was fantastic," she said. "At the entrance desk, everyone signed in and as they signed in, each girl got a white stemmed long rose with a ribbon around it. For the boys, we cut off the head of a rose right there and pinned the rose on their shirts. They had their date pin it on, or whoever they came with."

Sanders also said that at the end of the night, "each person got to go home with a frame with sparkling matting that said 'Prom 2012' and a photo from their group taken at one site."

It was high school photography students who did the roaming photography and a local photographer took the standing portraits, she said.

"Everything was all either donated services or monetary donations," Sanders said. "And the volunteers were all friends of mine who were willing to jump in and help when asked."

Sanders said donors included: FT Fitness, Georgen Scarborough Associates, PC, Dr. Brandon Lemuel, Chiropractor, Four Sales LTD and Inventory Inspector LLC.

"Vendors who donated their services for the night’s event were Superb Cuisines, Disc Jockeys On Call (DJOC) and Top of the Town," she added. 

Sanders said she couldn't be happier about the No Worries Now Prom that she put together.

"I was so excited about it," she said. "It was so great to see because, as the name implies, it was a night of no worries and we actually had the Fairfax County Channel 21 and Channel 9 did something on their 11 o’ clock news that night."

No Worries Now also has upcoming proms this week in Detroit, San Francisco and Sacramento, according to Belcher. Both the Los Angeles and Washington D.C. proms went swimmingly.

Even though the proms have been the program’s focus, Belcher said No Worries Now is moving onto other projects and causes.

"We have several other projects besides the NOW proms," Belcher said. "We also have a pair program that we're launching at some point soon, probably this summer."

This program will allow children and teenagers with such diseases to do more activities outside of homes and hospitals, Belcher said.

Belcher added that No Worries Now also participates in umbilical chord blood banking advocacy.

"The main focus of our organization is to do things now, and since umbilical chord blood can cure over 70 diseases, this is something with very immediate."

As for the proms, Belcher said, prom season and planning never really ends.

"We went from one prom in a year seven years ago to five this year," she said. "It will grow, that's my hope. We're potentially going international next year so I'm really excited."

As for Sanders, now she said she is preparing to start her freshman year at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. She said she will continue her involvement with the program while living the college life in the midwest.