Organization helps cancer-stricken mother see her kids attend prom
Kate Crawford smiled and laughed as her son and daughters crossed the stage of the Belle Vernon Area High School auditorium.
Then, the smile gave way to tears of joy as her husband, Stephen, escorted the newly crowned prom prince and princesses across the stage during the school's annual prom grand march.
Much younger than the rest of the prom participants, the audience cheered when twins Lily and Grace, 4, and younger brother Stephen Jr., 3 — the girls in embellished white dresses and their brother in a vest and dress shirt — received their crowns.
“The generosity continues to overwhelm me,” said Steve, just before he helped his children across the stage.
The 29-year-old mother from Rostraver has aggressive stage IV breast cancer that has spread throughout her body since she was diagnosed Jan. 25.
Doctors have given her less than a 30 percent chance of living five years.
With that in mind, she wanted to cherish new experiences with her children, so she created a “Mommy Bucket List,” including activities such as watching them take piano lessons, a trip to Disney World — and seeing them at the prom.
The White Oak-based Jamie's Dream Team has been helping the family cross things off the list, such as seeing a Pittsburgh Pirates game, visiting a spa with the girls and adding a swingset to the backyard.
Jamie Holmes started the organization in 2005 and has made more than 500 dreams come true.
She said she feels a kinship with Crawford, because Holmes herself deals daily with a congenital syndrome that has required dozens of surgical procedures.
“I feel almost a connection to her,” Holmes said. “She's like me. She took a bad situation and made it into a positive one.”
Crawford started Project Sweet Peas that helps parents with children in neonatal intensive care units after her own daughter Shannon, born in January 2007, was premature and struggled for three days with heart and diaphragm defects before dying.
Crawford said each experience on the “bucket list” helps her strengthen her relationships with her children, which she realizes some mothers don't get the chance to do.
“I know what it's like, so it does make me treasure this time a little bit more,” she said while at Salon Eye Candy in North Belle Vernon getting their hair and nails done for the big event Friday.
Prom sponsor Christin Maatta said students were eager to help the local family.
“When they understood Kate's story, they jumped in to help do whatever they could do to make her dream come true and are proud to share their special day with Gracie, Stephen and Lily,” Maatta said.
Students from the school's National Honor Society sold ice cream sundaes at lunch and raised $600 for the family, part of which treated them to dinner after the grand march at The Back Porch restaurant in Speers.
All That Glitters in Perryopolis donated the crowns, Monessen Florist donated bouquets of pink daisies for the girls and Leona Sprentz of Burlington Coat Factory in Monroeville donated the dresses and tuxedo.
“I'm always the giver, so to be on the other end and to be a receiver is just amazing,” Kate Crawford said.
She said she hopes parents are thankful for all the moments they are able to spend with their children.
“You should hug your children tighter every day because you never know when the end will be ... you should cherish your children every day,” she said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.