Disco balls hung from the ceiling, balloons and other decorations covered the room and teens in suits and dresses milled about. There was a blue cake with the night’s theme, “Katie in the sky with diamonds” iced in white.
At the center of it all was crown-wearing Katelyn Norman, 14, who was presented with a “Prom Queen” sash from her white suit-wearing date.
It would be just like every other prom except that this one took place in a hospital room and the prom queen wore an oxygen mask as she lay in a bed.
For one magical night, Katelyn’s hospital room was transformed into the bucket list prom she had wished for, even if it wasn’t the prom that was going on in another part of town.
Katelyn is dying from osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer. After fighting the cancer for two years, she was told last week that it has spread and there’s not much more doctors can do. She was sent home to spend her last days.
She made a bucket list that included a prom, a last slow dance, learning to drive a car, seeing Italy and a day with each sibling.
A fundraising page to help pay for Katelyn’s wish list has produced an outpouring of affection and generosity towards the teen. The page has raised more than $62,000 since Tuesday morning.
Katelyn’s prom was planned for Tuesday night in LaFollette, Tenn., but during the day Katelyn was having difficulty breathing and had to be taken to the hospital. Doctors told her she couldn’t go to her special prom, but she didn’t want that to stop others for going.
“Katelyn wanted the prom to go on. That’s her. That’s Katie bug,” Sharon Shepherd told ABCNews.com today.
Shepherd works at Campbell County High School, where Katelyn is a freshman. She has known Katelyn since she was 5 and has grown even closer to the teen since her diagnosis in eighth-grade.
Shepherd calls Katelyn “my little short and sassy Katie bug” and says she considers Katelyn “one of my own.”
Thousands of people lined highway 63 with candles to show support for Katelyn in an event called “Light the Night for Kate.” Another crowd gathered outside her hospital, standing in a heart formation.
“They wheeled her over to the window and propped her up to where she could wave outside to the crowd,” Shepherd said.
Meanwhile, the planned prom went on and some of the guests closest to Katelyn were told they could go to the hospital afterward to celebrate with her there.
Shepherd was told that Katelyn was “being her spunky self” at her hospital prom, talking and laughing with her guests.
Her best friend Brandon Huckaby planned “Light the Night for Kate” and helped run Tuesday’s events. At one point, Campbell County Mayor William Baird surprised the community with a special proclamation, declaring Tuesday Katelyn Norman Day in Campbell County.
Later on, Huckaby headed to the hospital to see his friend.
“Kate reached for me and pulled me against her. She made me promise to start the nonprofit that I talked to her about earlier this month,” Huckaby told ABCNews.com in an email today.
“She then told her mom to tell me about Nashville,” he wrote. “Apparently, Kate and her family were invited to the capitol to advocate for cancer research. Kate had told her mom before that if she doesn’t make it, then she wants me to go in her place and speak to the politicians on her behalf. As you can imagine, it was emotional.”
Dying Teen’s Bucket List Create Outpouring of Affection and Donations
An outpouring of donations have been made to Katelyn’s fundraising page in the past day. Donations will be withdrawn from the site on April 2. The check will be sent to Katelyn and her family, along with copies of all of the messages of support.
The website, GoFundMe.com, takes a percentage from each donation, but the rest of the money will be sent to the family.
“It was just wonderful how the community rallied,” Shepherd said. “It’s almost breathtaking. It’s overwhelming the impact she’s had.”
Shepherd said she does not yet know what the family’s plans are for the money or what their situation is with expenses or insurance. She said the family’s main focus right now is on Katelyn and her health.
One of the other items on Katelyn’s bucket list was to see the band Of Mice & Men in concert and get an autographed T-shirt from them. The band’s fans flooded their Facebook page and Twitter accounts with links to Katelyn’s story, urging them to reach out to her.
“Dear Katelyn Norman, our set was for you tonight,” the band’s lead vocalist Austin Carlile tweeted Tuesday night. “My mind couldn’t stop thinking about you the whole time. You inspire me, and I love you <3"
"NYC I'm sorry for the show. My head was somewhere else the entire time and the last thing I could think about was music. I'm so heartbroken," Carlile tweeted later in the night. "KATELYN is an inspiration to me. I didn't even want to be on stage tonight. I wanted to be with her."
Donations to Katelyn's bucket list fund can be made here.