Renal Prom: A Night in the Caribbean

Gemma Lafontant ’21, who stands with her prom guest, is an ND student and transplant recipient.

By: Christina Shirley ’18 and Maria Thomas ’18

Rainbow lights shine as the banquet hall of the Glendale Hilton fills with people. A string of lights dangling atop a bed of sparkly blue tulle creates the illusion of a waterfall. The 19th annual Renal Prom theme was Calypso: an Island-Infused Paradise.

Renal Prom gives teenagers who missed their high school Prom due to medical setbacks an opportunity to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The dance took place on Sunday, January 14th, from six in the evening to eleven at night. Lori Hartwell, the author of Chronically Happy: Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness, and the Founder and President of the Renal Support Network, inspired the start of this event in 1993. Hartwell wanted to help those with kidney disease, those on dialysis, or those who have had a kidney transplant.

The dance featured a photo booth full of props, a tropical juice bar equipped with maraschino cherries, and a special guest appearance from actors Jack Black who brought Nick Jonas as a surprise guest as well. The actors went on stage and expressed their appreciation for all in attendance, and sang a silly song they had written only minutes before their performance about their new movie, Jumanji.

Carolyn Richards ’18 and Maria Thomas ’18 pose with actor Jack Black.

Roughly 40 Notre Dame students volunteered to help set up, decorate, and attend this event. Part of the volunteer work included strutting funky moves on the dance floor. “If you see someone sitting down, ask them to dance with you!” Lori Hartwell said before festivities commenced.

Kate Danner, a Notre Dame senior said,“I loved dancing with all the other teens. Knowing that it would be their only opportunity for prom made it so much more special. I’m so happy I signed up to volunteer.”

If you would like to learn more about the Renal Prom or ways you can help those with renal disease, visit the Renal Support Network website at


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