Dancing the night away

It’s prom season across the country and Ryan Switzer never envisioned himself going to one.

But on Friday night he did just that.

And it wasn’t just any prom.

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh hosted their annual prom for their patients, and Switzer, along with B.J. Finney, was one of the special guests, enjoying the amazing evening and dancing the night away.

Switzer has been a regular visit to the hospital, so when one of the staff mentioned the prom to him, he couldn’t wait to go.

“I have been going every Friday to visit,” said Switzer. “They told me about the prom. It was a no-brainer. I asked my wife to go. It’s a unique opportunity to meet new people. To open up and allow people to see me in a new setting. Also to interact with patients, those who don’t get the opportunity to go to prom and enjoy the experience. It’s a lot of fun.”

All of the patients were able to select a complimentary prom dress or tuxedo shirt, donated by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Project Prom Initiative and National Council for Jewish Women, which they got to keep as well.

They enjoyed music and dancing, as well as other activities that were part of the carnival-themed event, including games, face painting and much more.

The best part of the night for Switzer was the smiles the prom brought to the patients. It’s those smiles that inspire him to come to the hospital on a regular basis.

“The ultimate goal is to just have fun,” said Switzer. “It’s why I do it. It’s why I go back every Friday. Every kid is different. Some are shy. What I have gotten good at it opening that child up. I don’t do a lot of talking. I do a lot of listening. I just like to get different perspectives on life. They are going through things I can’t even fathom. To hear their journey is inspiring. It’s good for them too to open up.

“There have been some kids that I have met fortunately in unfortunate situations. We have built relationships. Every kid you meet is special.”

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