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The 2017 Prom Challenge

Teenagers unite to party with a purpose.

By John Juettner

When the students at Freedom High School in South Riding, Virginia, attended their prom last year, they were intent on doing more than creating special memories. They were joining the fight against childhood cancer.

At the beginning of the 2015–16 school year, Freedom High had four students being treated for cancer. Aware of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s leadership in the research and treatment of childhood cancer, Freedom High turned their prom into a fundraiser for the hospital—even though none of the students with cancer were St. Jude patients.

Led by the junior class student council, which organizes the prom, the students saved money on renting a hotel ballroom by creating their own glamour in the school’s gymnasium. Local businesses donated food and services for the event, allowing the cost of a prom ticket to be donated to St. Jude. There was also a silent auction.

By the end of the last dance, Freedom High had raised $48,000 to support St. Jude.

“We learn a lot from our students from how quickly they are willing to do things that are a little bit different for good reasons and just causes,” says Doug Fulton, Freedom High School’s principal.

After the successful event, Freedom High’s prom committee traveled to Memphis to tour the hospital.

“One of the strong messages St. Jude showed us was one of hope and resilience, which I wanted to incorporate into our next prom,” says senior Bobby Doherty, who was part of last year’s prom committee. “How resilient those kids were! It was a very hopeful and positive atmosphere.”

This year, Freedom High is taking the St. Jude Prom Challenge to continue their support for the hospital. Through the challenge, students fundraise for St. Jude to party with a purpose.

Doherty hopes the prom fundraiser carries on after he graduates.

“I’d like to see the students realize they can take part in something that is greater than themselves,” he says, “and make the world a better place simply by participating in the prom.”

To learn more about the Prom Challenge, visit

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