LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — Like most 16-year-old high school girls, Amber Martin was looking forward to attending her first prom, linked arm-in-arm with her boyfriend.
That dream looked impossible when Amber was diagnosed with grade 4 astrocytoma, a type of cancer of the brain. The diagnosis came just after Christmas.
Beating back the specter of tragedy, more than 200 of Amber's friends and family on Monday treated Amber to her own personal prom — a night that lived up to the young girl's dream.
"Amber wanted to attend the prom with her new boyfriend, Austin, but unfortunately, her cancer is terminal, so that's not possible," said her mother, Angela Hurst. "So we made her wish known to some friends. We were hoping to do this very small and intimate, but with everyone getting involved and the donations we've gotten, it has turned into the night of her dreams."
The surprise prom was held at Rick's Place, 52 W. King St., and most of the guests were Amber's high school friends from Garden Spot, where she formerly went to school, and Pequea Valley high schools, as well as some friends from Kansas, Okla., where her boyfriend, Austin Hunt, lives.
"This is all about a girl who had a dream," said Nissa Stoltzfus, a lifelong friend of Amber and her family. "She wanted to attend a prom, so we got together and started making some phone calls and one thing led to another."
Amber's school friends — girls dressed in gowns and boys in dress clothes, all bearing hints of black and purple, Amber's favorite colors — began arriving around 5:40 p.m. Some came in an Eastern Lancaster County School District bus, others in an Elite motor coach donated for the event. The students, all lightly dressed despite Monday's frigid temperatures, hustled into Rick's Place, where they lined up to greet Amber.
Amber and Austin, escorted by a Lancaster city police cruiser with lights flashing, rolled up at 6 p.m. in a luxurious "Million Dollar Bus" owned and operated by Bill MacCauley of Sadsburyville. MacCauley had picked the couple up at Amber's home on Airport Road in New Holland.
MacCauley donated the use of the motor coach, with its seven TVs, plush seating, carpet, muted lighting and full bar, when he read about Amber. (The bus will be featured on an upcoming installment of the TV show "Mega RVs")
"I thought if this is her special night, I could donate the coach and bring her and her date in style," he said.
Although she was feeling the effects of the chemotherapy, radiation and pain medications she has been experiencing during her battle with cancer, Amber was wild with excitement as she greeted her friends.
"I love it," she cried. "I love my life. I love everyone. This is the best day of my life."
Her boyfriend stood close by her side. She had met Hunt last summer in Oklahoma, where her aunt and uncle live. Amber moved there to finish high school with Hunt, but returned home in December when she got sick.
"Amber is so great, and any way I can support her I'm going to," Hunt said, fighting back tears. "She means a lot to me."
Amber's friends were as excited as the guest of honor.
"She wanted to go to the prom this year with her new boyfriend, but she'll be missing it," said best friend Rachel Fetterman, a Millersville University student. "I'm so excited over this. Everyone is, especially Amber."
"Tonight is going to be great," said lifelong friend Jessica Horst, a Garden Spot junior. "It's really a miracle and I hope it's everything that she dreamed of."
Pequea Valley junior Miranda Stoltzfus said, "It's just awesome that everyone came together and did this for her because she really wanted it."
Garden Spot junior Jake Riehl said he has known Amber since the seventh grade.
"We usually fight a lot, but then we make up," he said. "She's a lovely girl. She's awesome."
Amber's parents and friend said they were grateful for the outside help they received in helping her live her dream, including the Elite coach, MacCauley's luxury coach, a free tuxedo for Hunt from Men's Warehouse and a grant from the Eileen Malloy Memorial Fund.
That list also included Rick's Place owner Rick Bomberger, who postponed "a little mid-winter break" at the beach to act as DJ for the event.
"I'm more than glad to help out at a function like this for Amber," Bomberger said. "It was a no-brainer to stay home."
"The community has just been great," said Randy Hurst, Amber's step father
This is Amber's second bout with cancer. She contracted the disease six years ago, but it was in remission. Three years ago, cancer claimed the life of her father, Jay Martin.
Amber's big evening was capped off when she and Hunt were named King and Queen of the Prom, and she was presented with a bouquet of purple roses.
"This is the last thing she wanted to do," Nissa Stoltzfus said. "One big hurrah."
Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era , http://lancasteronline.com