As Spring approaches, teenagers across America are shopping, preening, plotting, and planning for prom night. What to wear, who to bring, how to get there in sufficient style? With all those questions swirling in the increasingly warmer air, Lincoln Middle School students are gathering dresses, purses, wraps, and other formal attire, but the fancy clothing is not for them. It’s for cancer patients and cancer survivors who may not have the resources, energy, or time to hit the mall in preparation for the big night. They are seeking the community’s help to gather as many gowns and accessories as possible by March 13. Students started combing their closets in late February, when Lincoln teacher Jeffrey Schwartz put the word out that an organization dubbed Friends of Scott hosts a special prom event every year in San Diego for young people ages 13-19 who have cancer or are cancer survivors. The idea is that the teenagers may be unable to attend their school proms due to hospitalization, health complications, or other cancer-related issues. With that in mind, Friends of Scott hosts an annual prom at San Diego’s Hall of Champions, bringing together hundreds of decked-out teenagers who otherwise might not get to partake in the coming-of-age ritual. As a precursor to the special prom, the dress drive ensures the teens will have stylish digs. That’s where Schwartz and his students come in. In the last three weeks, Lincoln students have donated 100 dresses to the drive. Schwartz said the eighth grade class has led the charge.“The fact that the prom serves teenagers really makes it a relatable event for our eighth graders,” Schwartz said. “They are close in age to these kids and they want to help.”Schwartz, a five-year cancer survivor, was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 28. He now reports feeling strong and healthy, a fact that makes him want to give back. In addition to his leadership on the dress drive for Friends of Scott, Schwartz formed Kids Livestrong in 2006, a support group and educational outreach team for students dealing with cancer in their families, or those who just want to help. Inspired by Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation, Schwartz has grown the program every year since its inception. “When I got to Lincoln, I met a handful of students who were dealing with cancer in their families, and they felt alone,” Schwartz said. “When I shared my story they seemed to feel less alone, so that’s where I got the idea for a support group. We have reached out to at least 6,000 families with information and educational campaigns.”Eliza Abarbanel, an eighth-grader at Lincoln and a teacher’s assistant to Schwartz, jumped on the dress drive project when she heard about it. “These are kids who won’t have as many chances to go to a formal dance because they have to spend time in the hospital,” Abarbanel said. “I have dresses in my closet that I’ll never wear again, so why not help?”To donate a dress, wrap, or purse, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or drop of items at Lincoln Middle School no later than March 13. Items should be appropriate for a formal event. For more information about Friends of Scott or Kids Livestrong, visit these two web sites: http://www.kidslivestrong.com/ www.friendsofscott.org
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