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On the Town: Young kidney patients celebrate at annual prom

On the Town: Young kidney patients celebrate at annual prom
Posing for photographers at the Renal Teen Prom are from left, Ann Lopez, actor Jack Black, Renal Support Network President Lori Hartwell, singer Nick Jonas and ABC7 anchor Phillip Palmer. (Ruth Sowby Rands / Glendale News-Press)

The Renal Support Network's 19th annual Renal Teen prom drew more than 200 young people from 12 to 24 years old with kidney disease.

This past Sunday, the Glendale Hilton ballroom was decorated Calypso-style with tropical decor, dancing, a photo booth and renal-friendly food such as apples and veggies. A dip was thrown in for good measure.

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The dim lighting allowed a glowing disco ball to throw its colorful rays on the dancers.

The Renal Teen Prom was inspired by Glendale resident Lori Hartwell, president and founder of the nonprofit Renal Support Network.

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Hartwell missed her own senior prom and other school activities at Hoover High, since she was on dialysis from age 12 to 24. She didn't want other teens to miss their proms.

"We are here to make sure that every kid has a good time," Hartwell said. "That's the secret sauce to this prom."

Making sure everybody has a good time at the Renal Teen Prom are volunteers, from left, Jenna Browne, 18; Peyton Johnson, 17; Riley Scott, 16; and Daphnie Nguyen, 17. All are seniors at Notre Dame High School.
Making sure everybody has a good time at the Renal Teen Prom are volunteers, from left, Jenna Browne, 18; Peyton Johnson, 17; Riley Scott, 16; and Daphnie Nguyen, 17. All are seniors at Notre Dame High School. (Ruth Sowby Rands / Glendale News-Press)

Actor Jack Black, of the current hit film "Jumanji," even dropped by. Black is a champion of children's causes and a frequent supporter of the Renal Teen Prom, including last year's prom.

Black has a family member who had undergone a kidney transplant.

ABC Eyewitness News anchor Phillip Palmer also attended. Palmer is a kidney donor. He interviewed Black for a news segment on Eyewitness News.

From the ballroom stage, Palmer and Black introduced the evening's surprise guest — singer Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers fame.

He later formed his own band and, as an actor, had a recurring role on the T.V. series "Smash."

But Jonas' credits weren't on the kids' minds at the prom. They just wanted to see their idol in the flesh. Smartphone cameras were flashing as the three celebrities were on stage.

All had a chance to pose with Jonas, Black and Palmer to take selfies galore.

Also available for photos in front of the brightly lit step and repeat banner were Hartwell and Ann Lopez, who gave one of her kidneys to ex-husband, actor-comic George Lopez.

Earlier, Lopoez posed with a birthday cake for Meghna Verma, celebrating the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant. Verma, who has come to the prom for four years, is spending her time traveling now that she's not tied to dialysis treatments.

Her favorite trip was a pilgrimage to the land of her birth, India.

Another prom supporter who put in a welcome appearance was Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale).

Someone who wasn't photographed under the bright lights but could be found on the dance floor was 17-year-old Kareem Khalaf.

"I like to talk to people, and I like to dance," Khalaf said.

Fighting kidney disease and cerebral palsy, the Bellflower resident scooted around in his electric wheelchair dancing with his date Krystal Esparza, 18, also from Bellflower.

Khalaf 's mother, Elham Khalaf, kept a watchful eye from the wings.

Huntington Beach High School teens Sapphire Brilliant and Taylor Scofield also danced under the disco ball. Scofield has had two kidney transplants. This is his third year at the prom. He looks forward to more.

RUTH SOWBY RANDS may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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