DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Duke Children’s Hospital held a prom for its patients Saturday evening. The annual event, which began in 2017, has been virtual the last two years because of COVID-19.
“They’re just eager to gather, they’re eager to dance, they’re eager to dress up and celebrate something, they’re eager to be normal,” said Mary Long, a family partner for the Duke University Health System.
The annual Jodie’s Prom for Duke Children’s gives kids the full prom experience, including a photo booth, caricature drawings, dresses and tuxedos, and of course, plenty of dancing.
“It’s really fun, I’ve broken a few dance moves myself,” said William Kram.
Having the event in-person again also means the return of volunteers from Duke University. This year, members of the men’s lacrosse team were on hand to dance with the kids.
The hospital started the event back in 2017 to give patients an opportunity to experience an event every teenager hopes to go to.
“They can’t experience many of the things that other children can, that don’t have health needs. They come here, they’re dancing, they’re happy, some of them are really good too, right?” said Dr. Ann Reed, the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics.
With many patients faced with challenging circumstances, the event has created unforgettable memories. One of the doctors who helped create the event recalls when one of his patients met Grayson Allen.
“He was just going around and smiling the whole time, and just so excited to be in a place that you might associate with being sick, but have it transform to this really exciting thing, and every time I see him, for the last five years, he said, do you remember when I met Grayson Allen?” said Dr. Gary Maslow.
This year’s event is named after Jodie Neukirch Elliott, who staff members say gave everything for the prom. She passed away in August from complications of a chronic heart condition.