A Prom to Remember Comes to Boston

The event is a special celebration for children fighting life-threatening illnesses.

Shelbie at prom

Shelbie arriving at Prom. Photo by EMB Photography.

When Shelbie Murphy entered the Ritz-Carlton last Friday night, she was just like everyone else—and that’s exactly what she wanted.

Murphy, a 17-year-old, who four years ago was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare bone cancer most commonly seen in children) will be entering her junior year at Greater Lowell Technical High School this fall. She’s currently a patient at Tuft’s Floating Hospital for Children, where she’s undergone rigorous treatments, including multiple rounds of high-dose chemotherapy and a complicated stem cell transplant that landed her in the hospital for a whole month.

But last Friday was not about that. It was not about the doctors or the hospital stays. Friday was about Murphy’s chance to be like any other 17-year-old. Friday was about prom.

Murphy was one of more than 40 guests at Boston’s inaugural A Prom to Remember, a special celebration for children ages 12 to 19 who are battling life-threatening illnesses. Organized by the eponymous non-profit founded in 2009, A Prom to Remember was free of charge for attendees. The organization, which also hosts events in Fort Lauderdale and Cleveland, worked with private and corporate sponsors to ensure that everything from limo transportation to formal attire and salon service was donated.

Child Life Specialists at local hospitals partnered with prom coordinators to invite qualified patients to the event. Guests arrived at the hotel to a Hollywood-style red carpet that attendees—escorted by New England Revolution players or Miss New Hampshire—walked while having their pictures taken.

“It’s a wonderful [event] that they put together for these girls, seeing them go through so much — not feeling feminine and losing their hair,” said Jackie Murphy, Shelbie’s mother. “This was just perfect for them to make them feel like young ladies and feel ‘normal.’”

For Shelbie, that meant donning the new, jeweled Sherri Hill “princess dress” she chose in pink, her mother’s favorite color. She said her favorite parts of the evening were meeting fellow patients and “dancing and feeling healthy.”

“I thought I was the belle of the ball. I have accomplished so much, and to attend an event like this made me feel unstoppable,” Murphy said after the prom. “I felt like I was not alone with cancer. It was a magical night.”

Shelbie walking into prom. Photo by EDM photography.

Shelbie walking into prom. Photo by EMB photography.