Children’s Specialized Hospital Holds Prom for Patients

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

“This is my first prom. I’ve never been before,” said Georgia Klein of Maplewood.

The corsage — on, the nails — done, and everyone’s dressed to impress from head to toe. From tiny tots to teens, they wanted to look their best at a very special event for some very special kids.

“She’s the belle of the ball and she’s my date so I know she’ll be home by curfew,” said Scott Howarth whose daughter was one of the patients participating.

“I’m a junior at Haddenfield Memorial High School and I did miss my prom. It was a week and a half ago I think and I saw all the pictures but I couldn’t go because i was here,” said teenager Sarah Raschbaum.

Here, meaning PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital. Sarah is one of about 60 patients at the facility which has provided pediatric rehabilitation services for the past 125 years.

“We have some babies that were born at 11 ounces and we have some teenagers that have suffered traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries and find themselves with entirely different lives than they had originally planned on,” said Hospital President and CEO Amy Mansue. “But you see the kids. You saw, they don’t worry how sick they are. They just want to get back to the normal life, whatever that normal is.”

For Scott and Kara Howarth, the parents of Kaitlyn who was born at 1 pound 2 ounces, normal means celebrating milestones in their baby’s development.

“Oh she just rolled for the first time just like an hour ago. It’s a big day. Prom, rolling,” Kara Howarth said.

For Sarah, normal means going to the prom like any other teen.

“I am here because I was diagnosed with RND, which is a neurological disorder. So I’m here to have therapy for six hours a day. I’m actually leaving on Thursday. I’ve been here for five weeks and I’m feeling a lot better,” Raschbaum said.

This prom, organized by the staff and made possible by donations from the community, was a celebration of life and hope, regardless of how uncertain the future may be for some here.

“Many of these children will stay with us for their entire lives. And so we need to make sure that we’re on this journey with them and helping them every step of the way,” Amy said.

“After a long day of therapy, it’s nice to come here and have some fun with all the friends and dance and have a good time and not think about getting better at this point. Just having some fun,” said Linda Brunner of Waldwick.

That night of fun sent some to bed early, a sign that a good time was had by all.