Kristen Chao

Palmetto High School sophomore Kristen Chao and her friend Angie Isalgue spent almost an entire month collecting dresses for girls to wear to the Unforgettable Prom, a prom for cancer patients sponsored by The Friends of Scott Foundation. Chao and Isalgue sent emails and text messages to everyone they could think of asking for donations.

“Initially we thought we would get about 30 dresses,” Chao says. “We ended up getting 150 dresses.”

The dresses will be used by cancer patients 12 to 19 years old. Chao says about 200 girls are expected to attend the prom. “Everything is donated,” she says. “Local places are donating tuxes for the guys. The boys are easier to dress; girls need more choices.”

With the number of dresses Chao and her friend collected, the girls will have choices. She says some of the people who donated brought two dresses, while others brought accessories. “One person brought 12 dresses,” she says.

Friends on her volleyball club team also donated dresses.

“Some dresses still had price tags on them,” Chao says. “Some were used once and some were never worn.” In order to make it easy on those donating, she and her friend would pick up the donated dresses.

“I think it’s the first time that a special prom like this has been held here,” she says, adding that a similar type prom was featured in the book My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult.

The prom is scheduled for April 30 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Because of their work, Chao and Isalgue were invited to the event. “It should be fun,” she says. “I think it will be fun for the attendees, too. They get to have a night away from injections.”

Chao says she has a dress for the event and she did not need to look through the donated dresses to find something to wear. “It’s a short dress,” she says. “Something simple, a black dress that won’t be too noticeable.”

Chao became involved in the event because she knew she wanted to do something to help people. They had considered collecting toiletry items for Haiti, but decided that everyone was collecting for Haiti and they wanted something different.

Then they heard Isalgue’s mother and sister talking about the prom. In a spur-of-themoment decision, they decided to take on the Unforgettable Prom cause.

Now that she’s been a part of such a successful collection, Chao says she wants to do something similar and collect old sports uniforms for Costa Rica. She chose Costa Rica because her sisters went there a couple years ago on a mission trip and saw a need. When she’s not collecting for a project, Chao stays busy playing volleyball.

Although she just transferred from Westminster Christian this year, she was named a team captain at Palmetto High. “They already knew me and then we had summer workouts,” she says.

The team did well, winning the district title and making it as far as the regional semi-finals. Chao thinks the team’s prospects for next year are good. “We lost one key player, but we’re getting a few freshmen that are pretty good,” she says. “And everyone’s playing on a club team.”

As long as the players work hard over the summer, Chao foresees a good fall season for Palmetto.

“This year I’m not playing any other sport,” she says. “Last year I played soccer and varsity tennis; but I’m focused now and I know I want to play volleyball.”

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