Prom season kicked off in a major way at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital last weekend, when 40 pediatric patients plus siblings, caregivers, and staff participated in a circus-themed prom party palooza atop MD Anderson's Alkek Hospital.

The annual red carpet event for teenage patients is meant to be a much-needed celebration—a chance for kids facing serious illness and difficult treatment to just be kids for a night.

"The annual prom gives our patients a chance to forget about their cancer treatment while enjoying a night of glamor and fun," said Tomika Gamble, MD Anderson's pediatric camps and special events program manager.

The night had all the trappings of a great party: live entertainment (think contortionists, jugglers, stilt-walkers, and a floating ringmaster), special gifts, circus-themed treats, music and dancing, photobooths, food from local restaurants (coordinated by Thomas Nguyen, co-owner of Peli Peli Restaurants and co-founder of Prom Party Palooza), and a killer view of the downtown skyline. The party drew inspiration from The Greatest Showman, the popular musical that celebrates what makes us all unique. "No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else," Hugh Jackman—as P.T. Barnum—says in the film.

Days before prom, MD Anderson partnered with the National Association for Catering and Events and the Sunshine Kids Foundation to host a two-day Dress and Suit Shop for partygoers to get fitted for prom attire. Muzzie's, Dillard's, and MD Anderson donated new dresses, while AND Suits delivered custom-ordered monogrammed dress shirts and Men's Warehouse fitted patients for suits with help from Houston Dynamo players. Shoes came from SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker—the actress and designer recently hosted a warehouse sale here to benefit the hospital, which raised more than $300,000 for prostate cancer research—and longtime, noted MD Anderson advocate Kendra Scott helped prom-goers pick out the perfect jewelry.

Teens also got pampered pre-prom thanks to hair stylists, makeup artists, and nail technicians from Beautique Day Spa and Salon, and America's Got Talent contestant and teen ovarian cancer survivor Calysta "Caly" Bevier visited with patients before her performance at the Houston Dynamo game later that night to celebrate End Cancer Night.

All told, about 160 revelers enjoyed the magical evening. "Each year is an opportunity to bring a different theme to life," said Jill Vidal of NACE's Houston chapter and owner of EB Inc. "Seeing the joy on their faces as they walk into prom is so rewarding."

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