Jungle-themed prom at Packard Children’s Hospital marked the near close of the school year: Patients, friends and families came out for an unforgettable evening

People tend to think of prom as a high school event, but at the K–12 school at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, it’s a special night for patients and families of all ages.

On Friday, May 20, nearly 300 patients, friends and family attended the annual Hospital School prom. This year’s theme was “Expedition: Prom — Into the Jungle!” The evening featured a live DJ, casino and carnival games, Stanford University athletes in festive costumes, and a handmade life-size cave installation that really set the tone for “Expedition: Prom!”

For 14-year-old Ashley Salcedo of Stockton, California, it was her first prom and her first major social event since she received her heart transplant on March 26. She and her mother, Ema, have been living at Ronald McDonald House Stanford since October of last year, so Ashley has been at the school for the better part of a year. On prom night, which also happened to be the night before her fourteenth birthday, she got dressed up with her three siblings, Karina, Kiara and brother, Jesus, who all live in Stockton and whom she sees mostly on the weekends.

“We love when the whole family comes to prom,” said Kathy Ho, a teacher at the Hospital School, which is part of the Palo Alto Unified School District. “We not only educate patients but often their siblings as well, so we create a relationship with the entire family.”


Salcedo family (from left to right) back: Aunt, Ema Salcedo (Mom), Ashley, (front) Karina, Jesus, Kiara

The Salcedos are a unique bunch. There are four kids, ages 8 to 13, and three of the four have dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease where the heart muscle becomes enlarged and stretched (dilated), which causes the heart to become weak and pump inefficiently. Ashley’s sister Karina, age 9, received a heart transplant six years ago, and that’s when all the children underwent genetic testing for the congenital condition. Jesus, the youngest child and also a Heart Center patient, is not yet in need of a transplant, but he is being followed by the heart failure cardiology team.

Ho says that a large number of long-term patients like Ashley, who have attended school all year, were at this year’s prom. For high-school-aged patients, it makes the prom event that much more special.

Anuj Nanavati, 16, of Fremont, California, has attended school at the hospital since fall of 2015. Diagnosed in July 2015 with lymphoma, he had a two-pound tumor removed from his chest. He is currently undergoing regular chemotherapy, and his doctors are hopeful that he will be able to return to his regular high school for senior year. Anuj is well known around the hospital as a funny and positive guy — someone who befriends patients who are new to the hospital school scene.

“This place has been special,” Anuj said of the school. “Even though it has been a crazy year for me, I look back on this school year here and I have great memories. I made great friends, both with other students and with teachers.”


Anuj Nanavati (left) with Hospital School friends

That sense of tight-knit community is true not only for teens at the school but also for their families, many of whom live at the nearby, newly expanded Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. The House also got into the prom spirit, providing corsages and boutonnieres for promgoers and hosting a pre-prom glam session to help the girls, ages 6 to 18, get ready for the big night. A conference room was transformed into a salon that was staffed with volunteer hair and makeup artists from the Tamer Mickell and Reconnect hair salons in Burlingame.

“It’s a great community of support,” said Ema Salcedo. “Meeting these families that are going through similar things really makes it easier.”

“We love these kids and their families,” said Ho. “This event is the highlight of our year. We get to create a night they’ll never forget, and that is priceless.”

Heartfelt thanks to the volunteers and donors that made this event possible, including PWC, Apple, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and many others.


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