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Freedom High School prom raises more than $48K for cancer research

This year Freedom High School decided to forgo the glitz and glamour of a large traditional prom for a bigger purpose: to support those fighting pediatric cancer.

Thanks to savings from cutting prom extravagancies, fundraising efforts and donations from local businesses, Freedom was able to donate $45,000 to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital on April 29. The students also gave a total of over $8,000 to other local charities that battle pediatric cancer, including Ellie’s Hats, Smashing Walnuts, Still Brave and Team Mathias.

“Unfortunately, the Freedom community has been impacted pretty heavily by students and community members fighting pediatric cancer,” said Jessica Connors, English teacher and co-sponsor of Freedom’s junior class. “When we decided that all of [this year’s school] fundraising would go toward that, we decided we would do something with prom.”

The Dulles Hilton, where Freedom normally hosts its prom, was already booked by the time the student council came up with the idea to host the prom at the school. The venue returned the deposit to help the fundraising effort.

The senior class council got Whole Foods Market to donate free food for the event, which was served by faculty instead of waiters. The Washington Redskins and iHeartRadio helped out by providing giveaways and promoting the students' efforts.

Students and staff, including Assistant Principal Joseph Gabalski, provided free musical entertainment at the prom. Staff also pitched in as kitchen staff, photographers, valets and more.

The school accepted donations made on behalf of individual students on its prom website leading up to the event. The senior boy and girl who received the most donations were crowned prom king and queen.

“It’s something people will really be able to look back at in 20 years and remember as more than just a high school dance,” said Vivek Ramakrishnan, Freedom’s senior class president. “They’ll be able to look back and remember how they really did something that had a positive effect on someone’s life.”

Carmine Gothard is a senior at Briar Woods High School.