TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Sixteen-year-old Angel Eaton thought she was going on a date to play miniature golf with her boyfriend.
What she didn't know was that she would be crowned prom queen instead.
A group of Angel's close friends, parents and people she's never met staged a "pre-prom" for her on Saturday night, complete with music, balloons, a ballgown and a crown.
Angel doesn't know if she will be able to attend the Hillcrest High prom next month. She's fighting Ewing's sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. She has undergone chemotherapy and is scheduled to have surgery Friday to remove a cancerous tumor near her spine.
"Prom is two weeks after the surgery, and she should be in the hospital at least a week, maybe longer," said Angel's mother, Kim Eaton. "Her doctor thinks she might be able to go, to make an appearance, but she definitely won't be dancing and maybe will be in a wheelchair."
Angel's friends knew the Hillcrest High sophomore had been looking forward to the prom for months and already had a blue dress ready for the big date. They wanted her to be able to dance and enjoy the prom as much as any other teenager.
"We have a friend who is a cancer survivor and a friend of hers from Georgia threw the idea out there," said Leslie Barger, a friend of the Eaton family.
The friends had one week to find a location, arrange food and all the decorations. MJ Academy of Dance in Taylorville supplied the location, free of charge.
Kim Hubbard, the Georgia resident who has never met Kim or Angel, heard about Angel's story and paid for all the food. A photographer was also there to document Angel's big night.
"We took pictures and talked and danced, and just hung out," Angel Eaton said.
It was one night where Angel could be like any other teenager.
"Everyone was so amazing," Kim Eaton said. "I definitely cried. Angel had so much energy and was so excited and smiling all night. It was so great to see her so alive again."
Angel's cancer meant the party planners had to be flexible. A few days before the party, Angel went to Children's Hospital for a scheduled MRI and ended up in the ICU because of a fever and low blood pressure from an infection in her blood.
"It was definitely one of the scariest moments since this (cancer) started, not understanding what exactly is happening, and then your child isn't responding or waking up and the ICU doctors talking about intubating," Kim Eaton said.
Luckily, some heavy-dose steroids turned things around. Angel started to improve.
Plans were made, if the party couldn't happen in Tuscaloosa, the party would come to Angel at the hospital, Barger said.
"We weren't sure what was going to happen, so people at Children's Hospital had arranged for us to have a room if we had to take the party there," Barger said.
A nonprofit organization also arranged limousines to take 30 of Angel's friends by limo to Birmingham if she had still been in the hospital. Luckily, Angel was released on Friday.
When Angel walked into the "pre-prom" Saturday with her boyfriend, everyone yelled, "Surprise!" The teenagers danced and talked for four hours. Parents visited, and Hillcrest's principal, band director and associate band director came to the party.
Still, despite having her own prom, Angel said she's hopeful she'll be able to make it to the real thing next month. She still has her blue dress saved — donated by Burch and Hatfield — for the prom after the surgery. Instead of wearing her prom dress Saturday, friends provided her with a hot pink ballgown she changed into for the second half of the evening instead.
"The idea is that we didn't want it to be exactly like prom," Kim Eaton said. "We want her to have something for her to work toward (while recovering after surgery), but her friends also wanted her to have the chance to dance."
The whole event was a good learning experience for Angel's friends too, Barger said.
"It's good for these kids," Barger said. "They are learning not to take things for granted and to be there for each other. They value life a lot more now."
Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, http://www.tuscaloosanews.com