SickKids teens blossom at Enchanted Forest: the seventh prom-inspired party for patients
By Bianca Jimeno
In enchanted forests, magical things happen, and the seventh (happily ever) After Hours Teen Event at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) was no different. On Friday, July 8, SickKids teen patients and their guests took part in their very own enchanted forest-themed fairy tale, set in the transformed Rotunda.
With the right mix of décor, music, dancing and live entertainment, the teen event eliminated the “fear of missing out” for those who may have missed this coming-of-age milestone for health reasons.
“Being a teen in the hospital isn’t easy,” says Sabina Spataro, Child Life Specialist at SickKids. “SickKids prom gives patients the same thing prom gives any teen – a chance to go out, dress up, have fun, make friends, and make lasting positive memories.”
Earlier that afternoon, fan favourite and former SickKids patient DJ Skinnzy got the party started in Marnie’s Studio as patients and guests arrived early to get glammed up for the night. Like magic, Marnie’s Studio morphed from a creative arts studio into a buzzing beauty salon.
Although Vanessa Wiens, 17, just attended her high school prom, she could not wait for the big night to begin. Vanessa was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis when she was nine years old, so she has a lot of experience at the hospital. Now recovered from recent jaw surgery, she has much to smile about. Her guest for the night was fellow patient and good friend, Katie Atkinson.
“SickKids is my second home with my second family,” says Vanessa. “It’s a safe environment with people who know me, who have gone through the same things as me. I’m with my friends, I’m in my comfort zone, but I’m having fun.”
As the sun went down, the Rotunda sprouted to life. Teens arrived, some dressed like royalty. While the live band The Heist took requests, the “On the Floor” dance crew and Toronto FC players (the prince charmings of the night) kept the party going on the dance floor. On opposite ends of the room, a photo booth and hashtag station were set up to help the teens capture the special moments throughout the night.
Just down the hall, parents were treated to a comedy show by the Second City; far enough to let their teenagers have some independent fun, but close enough for parents to drop by if they wanted to sneak a peek.
Although the Rotunda’s walls were splashed with trees, vines, and greenery, the biggest growth of the night was seen in the patients themselves. Vanessa’s mom, Jesica Wiens, held back tears when she first saw her daughter beaming in her dress, updo and makeup.
“I can’t believe the transformation, she’s come so far as a high school graduate and now, almost 18, as a soon-to-be SickKids graduate too,” she says. “I know my child is beautiful, but to finally see her feel beautiful, inside and out, is so wonderful.”
The After Hours Exclusive Teen Event is made possible through the Dream Delivery program at SickKids. Thanks to the generosity of the Turning Dreams Into Memories – Ann Storfer Endowment Fund, the program provides unique opportunities for chronic and long-term patients at SickKids.
It was created in 2009 by SickKids’ Child Life Department, which aims to promote a positive hospital experience for children and teens through therapeutic play, encouraging self-expression, easing anxiety and enhancing coping strategies.