Reach for a Dream hosted a prom night at the Peninsula Hotel last Thursday for youngsters who missed their matric dance owing to life-threatening illnesses.
Heidi Lowley, regional manager for the foundation, says the prom night was inspired by Lyle Waverley, 18, from Mitchells Plain, who succumbed to metastatic cancer a week before the event.
“Lyle expressed his desire to have a suit for his matric dance and we thought about the other teens who don’t get a chance to go to their matric proms due to their journey. We reached out to various sponsors including the hotel and we were overwhelmed by the support we received from these sponsors,” said Ms Lowley.
She said the dreamers frequently go through their journey alone due to treatment and are often secluded, and that getting together for the prom gave them an opportunity to interact with young people that have similar experiences.
Donella-Joan Plaaitjies, 18, from Saldanha Bay, could not attend school for the better part of this year. “I was at Groote Schuur for treatment and I was in isolation for a long while. I have bone marrow cancer so the treatment is intense,” she said.
“We met this afternoon and we spoke about our journey and some of us started crying, I think we are all excited to be here. This (prom) is a dream come true for me, it’s amazing and I’m so happy to have met these people who are going through a similar experience. I missed the matric dance at Vredenburg High because I was not allowed to attend at that time,” Ms Plaaitjies said.
Morgan Dalhouzie, 18, was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2021. She completed her matric examinations this year and attended her matric dance at Stellenberg High School in Brackenfell.
“This was an amazing experience and the foundation made us feel like princesses and princes. I really enjoyed it and my journey is going fine, I’ve not had any complications so I can’t complain,” Ms Dalhouzie said.
Thato Mtati, 18, from Montana, has had kidney failure since she was four years old, and had to drop out of school earlier this year due to her treatment.
“I had so much fun and I would love it if us Dreamers have another gathering. I’ve made new friends and it’s really a wonderful experience and I’m grateful for this,” Ms Mtati said.
Ms Mtati plans to return to school to finish her matric and pursue a career in mortuary cosmetology.
Danielle Abrahamse, 19, attends Buren High School in Brooklyn. She had open heart surgery in March which prevented her from attending classes for the rest of the year. She was born with congenital heart condition and needs to take medication for the rest of her life.
“This is amazing for all of us, it is inspiring and we don’t have the same condition but we all go through similar things and it’s good to meet with them and we relate with each other, we don’t feel so alone now,” Ms Abrahamse said.
She says that if it was not for her five-year-old nephew, Dayaan, she would be depressed as they have fun together, and she intends on completing matric next year.
Emily Arendse, 18, from Parow, was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2020 and says she was only given a few months to live that year. She completed her matric at Tygerberg High and attended the dance so this was her second prom.
“I had a kidney transplant and so far my journey is going good. I’m on immuno-suppresants so I have to be careful with my health,” Ms Arendse said.
“This is such a lovely event, so much inspiration and the girls have really been nice and I’m looking forward to hearing more about their journeys, but this is amazing and I’m grateful that I could experience two proms, I had one earlier this year so I did not have to buy a new dress,” she said.
Lyle Henkeman, 17, of Bonteheuwel, was shot in the head and hospitalised for 25 days in July. He is undergoing therapy at St Joseph’s Hospital.
“I was at the wrong place at the wrong time and I did not know I was shot. I fell and could not get up even though I tried it. Then I woke up in hospital,” Mr Henkeman said.
“This prom is an amazing experience and I like the people I have met, they were all so good to us. I missed school this year and will do Grade 11 next year and I want to start playing football again,” he said.
He intends to become a teacher after completing his secondary education and university degrees.
Jordan Daniels, 17, from Delft, had his skull was fractured earlier this year after being assaulted by youths in the area. He was in a coma for six weeks and is receiving therapy. He missed Grade 11 studies at Silversands High School.
“This is the first time I’m at a party like this and I’m enjoying it. The people are nice to us and this is such a nice place,” he said.
Asiphe Mlungu, 18, from Khayelitsha, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in June and has had to skip his final year of schooling at Voortrekker High due to treatment.
“I was kicked in a soccer match, that was in May, and the injury did not heal and eventually I went for scans and they found I had this cancer, so if they had not kicked me I would not know,” Mr Mlungu said.
“This is the best party I’ve been to. Everything was well organised and the decorations are great, I love it, and I’m enjoying the Dreamers I’ve met,” he said.