(Sept. 27, 2019) The seventh annual Believe in Tomorrow Prom Court has been announced and the competition has officially begun.
Nine competitors are vying for the Believe in Tomorrow Prom King and Queen titles. The man and woman who raise the most money for the organization from now until the beginning of February will be declared the winners.
Wayne Littleton, coordinator for the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Respite Housing Program, originally created the event to help raise money to replace the heating air conditioning system in the 66th Street respite condos.
“We wanted to do a little event that hopefully would offset the cost a little bit and raise money in the wintertime,” he said.
“Through the course of conversation, the prom theme came up,” he continued. “I thought, ‘I enjoyed my prom during high school, but do people really want to relive their prom?’ And it turns out they do. The first year, I would have been happy with $10,000 but we raised $35,000. The second year we came back and raised $85,000 [which I believe is] because we had a better idea of what worked and what didn’t work.”
The competition raised an all-time high of $132,000 during the 2019 campaign. The 2019 Prom King was Stevie Day, who collected $5,000. The Prom Queen title went to EJ Foxx, who raised over $33,000.
Littleton has a lofty goal for his court this year, hoping to raise $200,000.
“It’s a nice even number,” he said. “It just rolls off the tongue.”
Money raised from this year’s competition will be used toward the new respite house, which has begun construction on 65th Street and is expected to be completed at the end of 2020.
Competing for Prom King this year is Justin Acita, owner of Pickles Pub; Photographer Chuck McMillian; Embers Restaurant Manager Rush Stahley; Bentzel Amusements owner Cody Bentzel; and Salisbury University student Ryan Milton.
Competing for Prom Queen this year is Insurance Broker Sami Glaeser; Beth Scaniffe of Whiskers Pub in Ocean Pines; Salisbury University student Cindy Taggert; and WBOC Radio Personality April Brilliant.
Members of the court will hold fundraising events over the next four months to try and raise the most money.
Acita has participated before with his restaurant, Pickles Pub on Eighth Street in Ocean City, when the event took a break from prom court individuals to have multiple restaurants competing. His wife, Brittany, competing in the court last year. She raised over $19,000.
“We raised a lot of money and I feel I have to beat her this year and raise more,” Acita said. “It’s important for us because we have three kids of our own and it’s a cause that’s been near and dear to us since we started the whole thing.”
The Acitas have already started raising money and will host various events like a wings cookoff, a mini golf tournament and a party to celebrate Pickles’ 30th anniversary.
He will also raffle off a Yeti cooler filled with prizes, where the winner will be announced at prom.
This will be Bentzel’s first time participating in the prom court, but he is very familiar with the program as Littleton is his father.
“I’m just trying to raise as much money for the Children’s House as I can,” Bentzel said.
Bentzel, from Hanover, Pennsylvania, owns an amusement company, which sells coin-operated games.
He has donated games and funds from his company to the organization, but realized he could do more. He has already raised some money through a pig roast he hosted in July as well as a Labor Day party. He has more plans, which includes events held in Ocean City.
This is also Brilliant’s first time running for Prom Queen. The Salisbury resident became a volunteer when her daughter, Stephanie, also became a volunteer over the summer.
“I got a chance to volunteer myself at some of the deck parties,” Brilliant said. “It was awesome to see the kids and the families enjoying all the amazing things they do. EJ Foxx approached me and I thought to myself, ‘I’d love to do that.’ My children are my life and I can’t imagine being in that position having a critically ill child or having to go through what they have to do every single day. That’s why the Children’s House by the Sea is so awesome.”
Brilliant will hold two separate Halloween parties at the Salisbury Elk’s Lodge on Oct. 27 and has plans for more events in the future.
Glaeser works for Deeley Insurance Group and restaurant Ocean 13 on 13th Street and has considered the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House a near and dear charity to her heart.
“A part of what Deeley Insurance Group is, is they have a few spotlight charities that they adopt every year and Believe in Tomorrow has been a steady charity they pull every year,” Glaeser said. “My beau, Jeremy Brink, ran for Prom King two years ago and so ever since I’ve been a huge supporter of Believe in Tomorrow. My goal is to raise as much money for the kids.”
Glaeser has already started raising money.
She hosted a charity event at Burley Oak’s Café in Berlin two months ago and set up a booth at the White Marlin Open at Harbour Island this year.
She is collaborating with Prom King competitor Chuck McMillian to do an Elvis Bar Crawl on Oct. 27. More events will be planned for the future.
McMillian, of Bishopville, began his photography career with Believe in Tomorrow three years ago and has remained loyal to the organization ever since.
“I was doing photography and someone said I’ve got a personable personality and I should work with Believe in Tomorrow and do portraits, so I connected with Wayne,” McMillian said. “I’m giving back what they gave me. It’s a great organization and it’s touching to see the children and the families and knowing they’re relaxed and on vacation and not worrying about hospital visits. I’m pairing up with other Prom King and Prom Queen candidates because I feel like the main subject is to generate the most money by all of us; it doesn’t have to be one candidate.”
McMillian has already begun to raise money and will hold an 80s/90s party at Whiskers Pub in Ocean Pines in the near future, as well as a golf tournament.
But his largest event planned is an Elvis Bar Crawl, which will span from Ocean 13, Purple Moose, Cork Bar, Bearded Clam, Pickles and Seacrets. The event will take place Sunday, Oct. 27.
Milton is a junior at Salisbury University who is double majoring in Business and market management.
He is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. This is his first time running for Prom Court.
“I heard about Believe in Tomorrow through Phi Mu. They did a great job promoting it,” Milton said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for fundraising for kids that need it. I know a lot of people so I feel I can do a great job of fundraising and getting my voice out there.”
No events have been given a date yet, but Milton plans to uses his Sigma Alpha Epsilon resources to help raise awareness and funds for his campaign. He wants to pass around donation buckets and use social media to help raise money.
Scaniffe, who works at Whiskers Pub in Ocean Pines, has been a loyal follower of Believe in Tomorrow and has donated several hours and meals for the cause.
“I’ve been involved for four years … it’s a good cause for kids,” Scaniffe said.
She has already raised some money with a few raffles and will hold an 80s-themed party at Whiskers as well as a paint night on Oct. 1. Scaniffe is also planning a golf tournament on Oct. 8 and a casino night at the American Legion on Nov. 17.
Stahley wants to use his connections at Embers and Blu Crabhouse and Raw Bar to help his campaign ever since he went to his first Believe in Tomorrow Beach Bash eight years ago.
“The first year I was here a friend of mine had tickets for the beach bash,” he said. “I went and I learned about Believe in Tomorrow and I thought, ‘What a cool thing they do.’ I started attending random events, including prom. Believe in Tomorrow is my favorite local organization.”
Stahley wants to hold bingo basket events and will also receive a portion of sales from Embers’ last day open, which is Oct. 6.
Taggert is a junior, Phi Mu sorority sister from Salisbury University and was encouraged to participate when one of her sisters, Nichole Goheen, ran for Prom Queen last year.
“Our local philanthropy is the Believe in Tomorrow House and our national charity is the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” Taggert said. “I’m also an education major so kids are my thing. It helps all the kids that come to the house and the families that need it and it helps our chapter get closer to our local philanthropy and not just our national philanthropy.”
Taggert plans to hold a dance-a-thon as well as sell grilled cheese and tomato soups in booths when the weather gets colder and also hopes to use the resources offered by her sorority sisters.
The Prom King and Queen winners will receive personalized baskets, which include gift cards and various donated items from local businesses. The Prom Queen also typically receives a bouquet of roses.
The final results will be announced at Seacrets on 49th Street, Saturday, Feb. 1, during prom night. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and the announcement will be made at 9 p.m. Tickets purchased in advance cost $35 and $40 at the door.
Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation provides hospital and respite housing services to critically ill children and their families. Since 1982, Believe in Tomorrow has provided over 900,000 individual overnight accommodations, from every state in the U.S. and more than 82 countries worldwide.
The Believe in Tomorrow facility on 66th Street in Ocean City is open year-round to provide a free getaway to the beach for critically ill children and their families whenever they may need to escape the stresses of their child’s illness.
Each of the four condos feature kid-friendly décor and paintings with at least two bedrooms, a full bathroom, a fully-stocked kitchen, living and dining room areas.
Families can also vacation at the Believe in Tomorrow House in Fenwick Island and House by the Bay on 28th Street.
Learn more about Believe in Tomorrow at http://believeintomorrow.org or call Littleton at 443-978-0680.