PROM NIGHT

This year’s prom court features, from left to right, Brandon Paul, Courtney Blackford, Jean Taylor, Jeremy Brink, Gavin Brink, Bryan Dephillip and Melissa Collimore. Erica Weimer, not pictured, is also a member of the prom court. The court will spend the next three months raising money for the Believe In Tomorrow — House by the Sea children’s respite hose on 66th Street.

It’s not easy keeping the lights on at Believe in Tomorrow House by the Sea without regular funding, let alone building upon its foundation.

But with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations expected to be raised by participants in the children’s respite home’s eighth annual Prom Court, those lights will continue burning bright and renovations could follow.

“Whatever we raise is how we survive here,” said Wayne Littleton, coordinator for the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation Beach Respite Housing Program. “We have no government funding or anything like that. Half my job is taking care of the families here and the other is not closing our doors. it takes a lot of money to heat places in the winter.”

Prom Night, which is held in February, is the most lucrative of the 66th Street respite home’s regular fundraisers and the lead-up officially began with a Prom Season Kickoff Party at Seacrets on Oct. 28.

Littleton described the night as an opportunity to meet everybody.

“We want them all to be successful. It’s a good relaxing evening for them to meet each other. It’s kind of neat how the friendships form,” Littleton said. “I’m always amazed when someone takes this on because it’s like a part-time job. They do it because they love the children and want to do stuff for the children’s house.”

This year, Littleton said his goal is to raise $200,000.

“I’m a little greedy,” he said. “It might be unrealistic during these times (because of covid-19) but that’s my goal.”

Littleton said the idea for Prom Night originally came from brainstorming ways to offset costs from replacing the respite home’s heating system and there weren’t any imminent fundraising events to help. He also didn’t want to interfere with the organization’s annual spring black-tie gala.

“I was wondering if people wanted to relive their prom and boy did I find out that they sure did,” he said. “We were hoping to make $10,000 the first year and made $35,000. It took on a life of its own.”

The event started at the old Hooters in West Ocean City before moving to Seacrets in recent years. With a more open setting, more fun with themes for Prom Night has been possible. In 2019, the theme was “Night at the Oscars” and $185,000 was raised.

The pandemic prevented a Prom Night from occurring last year.

“What I find most amazing is the creativity every year. A lot of them pass it on from year to year,” Littleton said. “It’s great with the themes. People get into it. We go overboard on our events — we want it to be perfect. That’s our goal.”

Prom court members have come up with all sorts of ways to raise money. In addition to a giving site on Believe In Tomorrow’s website, over the years participants have hosted mini-golfing, a “womanless” pageant, a martini party with a tattoo raffle called “Tats and Tinis” and a billiard “pool” party, Littleton said.

No matter the idea, each fundraising event comes down to strengthening a pillar of the Ocean City community.

“It takes a lot of money to run these facilities,” Littleton said. “That’s what the money goes to all the time. People down here love seeing where their money goes. It’s not just writing a check to an organization. They see it stays here at the children’s house.”

Children’s House by the Sea allows children (and their families) suffering from serious illnesses a break from the arduous daily battles they face.

For more information, visit https://www.believeintomorrow.org.

Believe in Tomorrow Prom Court:

Courtney Blackford, Berlin, Marriott Residence Inn

Gavin Brink, Ocean City, student

Jeremy Brink, Ocean City, Ocean 13 restaurant

Melissa Collimore, Ocean City, Sunset Grille

Bryan Dephillip, Ocean City, One Source Associates

Brandon Paul, Salisbury, Ocean City 98.1 FM

Jean Taylor, Ocean City, The Greene Turtle

Erica Weimer, Baltimore, Pete’s Cycle

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