Siblings host virtual prom for students who can't attend in person

To honor Mental Health Awareness month, two Atlanta-based siblings created an online event called We Are Well: Virtual Prom for senior students.

Because of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, Hannah, 15, and Charlie Lucas, 18, have been worried about the mental health of teens, many of whom have seen school, graduation and proms go by the wayside. “The class of 2020 was kind of cheated: Graduations are being canceled indefinitely,” Charlie tells Yahoo Life, while Hannah adds, “We really just wanted to take back something that was stolen from the class of 2020.”

This led to both siblings creating a virtual prom on Instagram Live, held on May 2. The party was a major success, largely because of partnering companies including Pandora Jewelry and Sebastian Professional haircare brand, which provided swag bags to a handful of participants to prepare for the evening.

The siblings set up the first half of the event as a “digital red carpet.” Hannah said, “We had other people join our Instagram Live and we asked them what their favorite self-care tips were, and what mental health tips and precautions they were taking during this time.”

DJ Jazzy Jeff provided music while Hannah and Charlie gave out cash grants totaling $46,000 — from Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Hot Topic and the AAKOMA Project, according to the event’s publicist — to help students through the pandemic, with the goal of funds being used it for tuition, books, rooming fees, laptops, internet, or even basics like food and shelter.

Siblings Hannah and Charlie Lucas hosted a virtual prom. (Photo courtesy of Hannah and Charlie Lucas)
Siblings Hannah and Charlie Lucas hosted a virtual prom. (Photo courtesy of Hannah and Charlie Lucas)

The idea of mental-health awareness hits home for brother and sister. They are co-creators of an app called notOK, which features a digital panic button programmed to instantly connect you with up to five of your closet friends or family. With the touch of the button, the app sends a text to them with the sender’s location.

It came out of a troubling diagnosis of Hannah’s — Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a chronic illness that causes her to faint often. In addition, as a 15-year old freshman in high school, she says she was bullied continuously and suffered from depression, anxiety and an eating disorder, all of which led her to attempt suicide. She thanks her mother for helping her through that dark period.

Charlie says he found Hannah’s struggles hard to watch. “I felt like I was helpless. I couldn’t do anything for her…there was this intense dread and feeling, like, what if she passes out and I’m not there to catch her?” His opportunity to help Hannah came when she proposed the app idea to him. They have been partners along this journey ever since, and aim to remove the stigma around mental-health issues.

“We really wanted to shine a light on this graduating senior class and show them that we are here, we’re together, and we’re strong amongst all the chaos,” says Hannah. And with 500 virtual attendees, they were able to make an epic prom happen for people around the world.

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