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Valentina Londono

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Valentina Londono

Recently, A Prom To Remember (APTR) lost a beloved member of its family. Valentina Londono, 17, who you might remember as the petite beauty who was our 2012 poster child, died on Nov. 27, 2013.

Those who were fortunate enough to meet Valentina were immediately drawn by her wit and charm. And though soft spoken, she had a mighty voice that evoked change.

There was no one more passionate about childhood cancer awareness and advocacy than Valentina. She was always willing to push past any innate shyness and act as a spokesperson for cancer causes. She gave media interviews, made speeches, helped fundraise and more, all in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of children battling cancer.

Through all the ups and downs of her treatment, Valentina never lost hope. She maintained top grades at school, while studying remotely, and she had just completed a political science course at Brown University, also remotely. A tremendous writer, her 2012 feature article in Broward Health Magazine highlighting APTR was recognized by Ragan’s PR Daily. She became an avid photographer and artist. In her limited free time, she often wrote poems. And she dreamed…of the future and all it held. She often spoke of becoming a journalist or politician or someone who could change the world. Little did she know, she already had.

Just by knowing her, many were called to action. And in her memory, many more will continue the fight against cancer. And while we grieve the loss of our dear friend Valentina, we realize there are many more boys and girls who are continuing their fight with this horrible disease. Knowing this, we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide a once in a lifetime experience for teens with cancer, providing one night where these wonderful kids can throw off the cancer label and just be regular teenagers enjoying their prom.

We do this not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s what Valentina would have wanted. For in her words: “While the last year has been hard, A Prom To Remember gave me something to look forward to and hope for. When it was all over and I was driving home, I was thinking to myself, ‘Wow, that was incredible!’ I was actually able to forget for one night everything I have been through. I felt so happy and normal surrounded by so many survivors, warriors and just people who care so much. It was an experience I will never forget.”

4th Annual Prom to Remember: A Night I will Never Forget

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When my boss told me I would be attending this years ‘A Prom to Remember’ gala, I was extremely excited. I’ve been hearing about it from him since last years event and how touching the experience was. I immediately took out my best suit and started touching up on my 90s dance moves.

When I arrived at the Ritz Carlton on May 10th, 2013, I didn’t know what to expect. The organizers and volunteers welcomed me with a smile and a Lei (Hawaiian flower necklace) and told me the guests of honor would be arriving shortly. As I waited I noticed how beautifully it was all decorated with a Hawaiian Luau theme and a beautiful red carpet leading into the ballroom.

aPromtoRemember 2013

Once I began seeing all the kids arrive, I was in awe. The girls looked glamorous with their dresses and the boys handsome with their suits. You can see the surprise in their faces when they realized who was waiting to escort them down the red carpet. The lucky ladies walked the red carpet with players from the Miami Dolphins and the boys walked down with cheerleaders from the Miami Heat, Miami Marlins & Florida Panthers. To make it more special, an army of photographers and news anchors interviewed them and took hundreds of pictures making them feel like true celebrities. I won’t lie, I was a little jealous this was way better than my prom.

Everything was ready for the party. The music was loud, the food smelled great, the dance floor was jumping. As the celebration went by I could tell, volunteers, guests, organizers, media, sports figures and even some waiters were having a lot of fun.

When I spoke to Brandon Opre, Founder/President of The Unforgettable Prom Foundation/A Prom To Remember. He was so happy on how the night was turning out. “Because of the generosity of many individuals, corporations and foundations we are able to bring unbridled joy to these amazing kids! The experience tonight for the kids, and all of us involved, is priceless!”

I was proud to be part of an event and organization that offers these children, even if it’s for one day, an increase in quality of life. I know from seeing them smiling, dancing and laughing they had forgotten about their problems and had a night they will never forget. All made possible by the sponsors and volunteers from South Florida.
Read more about who contributed and attended the event.

Most of us remember our prom as a life milestone. The only thing we had to worry about the next day was final exams, college applications, and summer jobs. Some of those kids won’t make it to next year’s prom or their own prom. I was reminded of how many teens with cancer miss their proms because they are in hospitals getting treatments that make their hair fall out or weakens them. All this made me realize my situation isn’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things.

It was a bittersweet experience that I will treasure forever. I can’t wait for next year. I have to admit my 90’s moves did not compare to the moves those kids had that night, but I will practice.

Boasting BiZ Miguel Mendez

About the Author – Miguel Mendez is a Miami based author and journalist for Boasting BiZ. Better know in South Florida as an online marketing erudite, avid Blogger and one heck of a guy.