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Pediatric patients celebrate very special prom | News

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Pediatric patients celebrate very special prom
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Tampa, Florida -- It's an art finding the perfect dress for 11-year-old Antonia Gurley.

"Too wedding-y," she says about one gown. Then, she expresses a distinctly different reaction about the next dress on the rack.

"This is like a queen of prom!" she squeals. "The straps are covered in bling." And choosing that gown would match her partially purple hair.

She'll pose like a model before even trying the dresses on. She radiates with excitement over choosing a tiara because, she says, "It's going to make me look like a princess."

As she prepares for prom, she still holds true to her best advice: "You just say to yourself that you're beautiful."

It's a lesson the 11-year-old, lovingly known as Noni, has learned over the years in the very same place she's attending prom: St. Joseph's Children's Hospital.

Noni has a disorder that weakens her immune system. Bandages cover remnants of her surgery two days ago.

"I won't be able to dance," she says.

But that's not about to stop her from preparing for the perfect prom, an event she looks forward to for an entire year.

"She doesn't have social interaction with kids her age unless it's family members," says her mother, Angelika.

This is the second year St. Joseph's Children's has held prom for its patients.

"For some kids, this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity so we were just so excited to give them this chance to experience prom," says Certified Child Life Specialist Shannon McQuown.

Noni knows how she wants her makeup - "dramatic," she tells the artist. She asks the hairstylist to help her create a faux-hawk.

"We don't have normal much in our lives," her mother says. "So for her to be able to come and be a normal kid, it's huge."

It's a night where medicine doesn't matter, a night full of prom kings and queens, and a night where kids think they may not have the strength to dance, but they absolutely do.

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