A girl wearing a red strapless gown stands next to a boy in a dark suit.

She was too sick to attend prom. So we brought prom to her.

Hospital staff put together a prom in 24 hours for
17-year-old cancer patient


As a disco ball spun rays of light around her, 17-year-old Addison Ryker stepped into the room on crutches. She wore the red strapless lace gown that she had chosen months ago for this special occasion. Her hair fell over her shoulders in soft, cascading waves. It felt like a dream.

This was Junior Prom.

But for Addison, prom wasn’t at a hotel ballroom or high school gym. Hers was in the teen lounge at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, where she was hospitalized.

‘Whenever a kiddo is missing something, we try to recreate it’

Last December, Addison's world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer. What was at first  thought to be growing pains ended up being a life-altering diagnosis at UC Davis Health.

Suddenly, her carefree life was replaced with a battle against cancer. Nothing was certain.

Addison had every intention of attending her high school’s prom. She had her dress picked, her matching heels ready, her prom date (who is also her best friend) confirmed.

But when Addison landed in the hospital and would not be discharged in time for her prom, her care team at the hospital wondered if they could bring the prom to her.

“Whenever a kiddo is missing something due to hospitalization, we try to recreate it, however we can,” said child life specialist Sherry Petta, who worked with Addison’s primary care nurse Heather Zoucha to plan the event. “We all saw how down and depressed she was when she realized she would have to miss prom. But it is always the patient’s choice. If Addison decided that she didn’t want to do anything, we would respect that. We would support whatever she wanted.”

Addison gave the team permission to move forward on prom planning. In about 24 hours, they pulled together a prom, custom made for her.

Watch Videovideo iconA girl wearing a red strapless gown stands next to a boy in a dark suit.

A prom to remember

Pediatric nurses and staff lined both sides of the hallway, creating a path guiding Addison and her prom date to their prom location: the transformed teen lounge.

They had decorated the room with a casino theme, echoing the prom theme at Addison’s high school. White and black tablecloths, poker chips and packs of cards decorated tables. Addison’s mom, dad and stepmom were there to take photos. A Spotify prom playlist provided a soundtrack for the night.

The care team also designed and signed a prom card for Addison, calling her their Queen of Hearts.

Santana Diaz, the hospital’s executive chef, designed an elegant meal for Addison and her prom date to celebrate, complete with champagne flutes filled with sparkling apple cider to toast the event.

A printed menu outlined the prom meal for two: a tomato cucumber salad, seasoned grilled chicken breast with potato corn cakes and cheese fondue with asparagus, served with a carrot radish chive garnish. For dessert? Ginger Elizabeth macarons.

They ate, they talked, they danced (as much as she could on crutches). It was a prom unlike any other.

“Addison was incredibly touched and happy. The kindness of the staff helped make a difficult day special,” said Emily Long, Addison’s mother. “I cannot thank them enough for their kindness and thoughtfulness. We truly feel blessed.”