TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It wasn’t quite the high school prom, but for pediatric patients at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, everything from the DJ spinning, to children happily dancing the night away, was a prescription for a good time.
“This is our seventh annual prom and this year, we have an amazing comic super hero theme to honor our little super heroes here,” said Elizabeth Walters, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Child Life Specialist.
“We want to honor them and give back to them. You know they miss out on so many things that normal kids go through. We want them to experience that too. When they miss their dances or their prom, we want to be able to give them that opportunity and share it with all their friends and family,” said Walters.
Antonia “Noni” Gurley, 16, has been a patient at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital ever since she was 18-months-old. Noni has has attended all seven proms at the hospital and says every prom is more amazing than the last.
“It makes me happy to see people, especially the patients out there, dancing having fun. Not thinking of pain. That’s what puts a smile on my face every single day,” she said.
Noni is a self-proclaimed child advocate on a mission with a message to empower her peers when they are confronted with bullying.
“Do not listen to them. Just walk away and tell yourself you are special and unique in every single way and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise, because if they do, they are not human. They are not special. They are not like you,” Noni said, before she cut the interview short to get back on the dance floor.
Eric Piburn, 10, didn’t go the super hero route. He decided to dress up and impress his girlfriend Leslie.
“I had to come rescue my girlfriend. Her name is Leslie. She’s a really good girlfriend and I just had to come rescue her and play with her. I mean, every time I’m in the hospital she comes through and plays and I don’t want to let her down,” said Eric as he and Leslie made their way to the dance floor.
Leslie is a Child Life Specialist at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and Eric held her tight with a big smile on his face as she carried him in her arms as they danced the night away.
“It reminds me of our first honeymoon and friendship. We have friendships. We have friendship every time we meet each other. Every time. It’s just cool,” said Eric.
Sixty families dressed up and attended the comic super hero-themed prom. In her wheelchair, dressed up like Captain America, not only could nine-year-old Paola Nicole not stop smiling, she couldn’t get off the dance floor.
“I usually come here because my belly hurts or they need to take my blood, and that’s not good. That makes me a little sad, but I always try to keep a smile under that frown,” said Paola.
“It has been a magical night and I’m glad to spend it with my mom and baby brother, because every time I go somewhere they are always there by my side,” she said.
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