BrAva ‘Mom Prom’

Mid-Ohio Valley moms got the chance to let their hair down and dress to the glittering, high-heeled nines at BrAva’s first ever Mom Prom on Friday night.

BrAva, a local nonprofit aimed at fighting and bringing awareness to childhood cancer, held the event for women 21 and older at the Marietta Shrine Club to raise money for its cause, a success story that three years to date has raised $27,000 to support local families battling childhood cancer and for CureSearch, a national nonprofit for childhood cancer research.

The event included prom queens whose children have battled, or are currently fighting, cancer.

The ladies-only dance, which included food, a DJ, prizes, a raffle, photo booth and more, was designed to help bring awareness to BrAva’s cause while also serving as a fun, supportive night for women to live in the moment.

“This is a night for women to get out, forget everything and be out for a good cause,” said Traci Nichols, the vice president of BrAva and mother of the late Ava Nichols, for which the organization was partially named. “This is all about the camaraderie, and to make women feel beautiful, empowered and to reassure them that we’re powerful and we’re going to make a difference.”

When tickets opened up for sale Jan. 16, all 250 were sold out in just three hours, and the group decided that the 50 deserving women on the wait list should also get tickets.

“I predict next year will be even bigger,” Nichols said, as BrAva has already set a date for 2015.

Nichols traveled to North Carolina shortly after losing her daughter Ava in 2012 to be honored at a Mom Prom held by Cookies for Kids.

“Once we saw it, it wasn’t a matter of ‘We should do this’ it was ‘We’re going to do this,'” she said. “Even though it was the hardest night of my life, I felt like I could let go because no one was judging me.”

The cost of the event was paid for mostly by a $4,700 donation from Globe Metallurgical in Beverly, allowing the nonprofit to take in the approximately $10,500 from ticket sales to go toward its cause.

“The amazing thing was that this was all through Facebook. We wanted to go to the media… but the word spread so fast and just through that we sold out,” Nichols said.

The Mom Prom included a gold carpet, gold for childhood cancer, for attendees to take group photos, and tickets included a complimentary raffle ticket, a drink ticket and a swag bag of items from dozens of local businesses.

Three moms were crowned Mom Prom Queens, all who had children currently battling cancer or a child in remission.

“We were the first family BrAva helped, so we want to give back,” said Beth Hanes, one of the mothers honored as a queen that the committee kept secret until Friday.

Hanes’ daughter Jillian, 4, was diagnosed with cancer at 14 months old, and has been in remission for two years.

“Hopefully people understand that this can happen at any time, and we can’t take life for granted,” Hanes said. “There is support out there.”

Lisa Parsons and Tabatha Bigelow were also honored as Mom Prom Queens, as daughter Haley and son Toby, respectively, are both battling cancer.

“You take it one day at a time when you’re struggling, that’s what you have to do,” Hanes said.

BrAva Fight was formed in 2011 in honor of two local girls-Ava Nichols and Bridget Crock- who at the time were both battling cancer, as a way to raise money for local families battling the same disease and to help donate money to CureSearch.

Ava’s life was claimed by a brain tumor while Bridget, 7, is a survivor, and the organization continues to work in Ava’s memory and Bridget’s honor.

“I cannot believe what all these women have done to put this on,” said Desni Crock, Bridget’s mother. “It’s all about support for women who are going through having a child with cancer and the everyday struggles they face.”

Crock is also a member of Relay for Life and went to a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. to help pass the Healthcare Reform Bill to forbid insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Nichols and Crock both agreed that they hope that having 300 people at such a fun event will help raise awareness and teach people about the struggles and the support that is out there.

“Tonight was all about them,” Nichols said. “I know all too well how much they need it.”