(Feb. 6, 2015) The much anticipated second annual Prom Night fundraiser for Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation has finally arrived, but unfortunately, the Feb. 7 event at Hooters in West Ocean City is sold out.
The party will start at 7 p.m. with a buffet featuring an assortment of finger foods and appetizers including a carving station, silent auction, happy hour prices, wine wall and the announcement of prom court winners.
Prom Night is a fundraiser to help replace the deck of Children’s House by the Sea on 66th Street, which has worn out over time. Funds will also be used for general repairs such as painting, replacing carpets and other facility needs, including utilities, said Wayne Littleton, coordinator for the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Respite Housing Program.
The facility is open year-around to provide a getaway to the beach for critically ill children and their families whenever they may need to escape the stresses of their child’s illness.
The Believe in Tomorrow Foundation began as a volunteer effort to help critically ill children while they were undergoing treatments at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and University of Maryland hospitals in 1982.
By 1986, the Foundation created the Beach Respite Housing Program, which is the first pediatric respite housing program in the United States, for children with life-threatening illnesses. The healing powers of the beach and ocean were recognized with one rented oceanfront condo in Ocean City, which was made available to families for free as a place to renew their spirits during treatment.
The beginning of the 1990s brought a Believe in Tomorrow four-level hospital residential facility to Johns Hopkins. Currently, it provides 1,000 individual overnight accommodations each month to children and became a model for other facilities throughout the country.
National partnerships with DeWalt tools, Embassy Suites and others helped expand the foundation’s services throughout the country between 1995 and 2001. Believe in Tomorrow served more than 38,000 children per year during this time period.
In 1996, the Believe in Tomorrow family townhouse in Fenwick Island opened as the Foundation’s first permanent beach respite facility.
The Foundation expanded its beach respite program in 2000 when Believe in Tomorrow House by the Sea opened on 66th Street.
The five-unit condos have at least two bedrooms, a full bathroom, a fully-stocked kitchen, living and dining room areas. The décor features childlike paintings to create an ocean getaway for families visiting Ocean City.
A full-service elevator was installed in 2013 and allows families to easily navigate from the ground floor and private parking area up to the third floor.
During the summer months, weekly barbecues take place on the deck, and they provide, beach chairs, umbrellas and a beach wheelchair to guests. Many local businesses partner with Believe in Tomorrow House to offer numerous activities for all family members during their stay.
By 2007, the Foundation acquired a bayfront townhouse on 28th Street, which was converted into a new beach respite home. The facility became a part of Believe in Tomorrow’s military initiative and opened its doors to military families in 2008.
In 2014, about 180 families stayed at the three facilities in Ocean City. According to Littleton, the houses are booked for a solid four months during summertime. In addition, several families visit on weekends in the fall months.
The program allows critically ill children and their families three opportunities a year to visit Ocean City from the time a child is diagnosed to one year post treatment. It is important for everyone to experience at least one week in the summer and the goal is to not have an empty unit, Littleton said.
A couple years ago, there were three families visiting from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. Littleton believed it was fate that all of the children were around the same age and they bonded the entire week. Two of the little girls became best friends and the families reunited over Thanksgiving.
“The goal is to help these families make connections with one another. By getting to know each other, amazing things can happen,” Littleton said. “It is the purpose of our cookouts on Monday nights and introducing everyone at check-in.”
Believe in Tomorrow does not close its doors during the winter and there is always a condo ready for a family who needs to escape for a weekend.
“I had a family come out of the blue two weeks ago. I put a lock box on their door on Friday, they spent the weekend in Ocean City and I never met them,” Littleton said. “You never know when you might get a call, units must be ready at all times.”
This past December, Believe in Tomorrow housed 10 families.
Fundraisers help raise money to provide these essential week-long excursions for critically ill children and their families. Prom Night is Believe in Tomorrow’s biggest wintertime fundraiser and last year it helped raise enough money to replace the heating and cooling system.
The 10 nominees running for king and queen this year are: Jason Eade, of Shenanigans Irish Pub; Danny Robinson, of Backshore Brewing Co.; Todd Dundore, of American Granite and Tile; Jason Gulshen, general manager at the Holiday Inn; DJ Shirk, from Seacrets; Jackie Siejack, of Chesapeake Employer’s Insurance Company; Emily Harrison, membership director of Phi Mu Phi Delta; Brittany Raeubber, of Hooters; Tiffany Miller, of Salisbury Private School and Jessica Townsend, of Applebee’s.
They have been working hard over the last few months to raise money. The man and woman who raises the most money will be named king and queen of Prom Night.
“I am proud of the 10 amazing people who put their heart and soul into it. All of these people have full-time jobs and I find that amazing because participating is like having another one,” Littleton said. “I hold them all in high regard. Some I had never met before and we’ve become friends.”
Learn more about Believe in Tomorrow at http://believeintomorrow.org.