LaKesha Jackson-Gordon and Ganesa Taylor, both 38, have been best friends since they were third graders at Northeast Elementary School in Amityville.
In the decades that followed, they took on everything together: From riding in a limousine to their senior prom at Amityville Memorial High School in 1997, to Jackson-Gordon’s stage-one breast cancer diagnosis in 2011.
After undergoing a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Jackson-Gordon is now cancer-free. But she hasn’t stopped fighting for women like herself.
The year she was diagnosed, she and Taylor started Pink S.H.O.E.S., Inc. The acronym stands for Strength, Hope, Optimism, Endurance and Survival. The non-profit aims to financially assist women diagnosed with breast cancer who are 40 and younger.
Last Saturday, the best friends hung out at the Radisson Hotel Hauppauge-Long Island in Brentwood, where event-planning company Kay York Affairs held its third annual adult prom. The money raised through raffles that evening benefited Pink S.H.O.E.S.
Jackson-Gordon and Taylor organize their own events as well, and raise money for breast cancer patients to put toward transportation costs to and from treatments, grocery bills, and Thanksgiving and dinners and Christmas gifts during the holiday season.
Jackson-Gordon got the inspiration for Pink S.H.O.E.S. during her own treatment. She said she didn't necessarily need these things herself, but knew how much it could help someone else in her position.
“We try to do things that help not just the mom, but also the family, because when the mom is struggling or going through treatments or sick, the whole family suffers,” Jackson-Gordon said. “We try to make our programs centered on the whole family.”
Jackson-Gordon and Taylor know how important this time of year is for high school seniors. So when prom season rolls around, the non-profit offers a special sponsorship.
“Sometimes with moms going through treatment, it can put a burden on the finances, so we don’t want the children to miss out on their special day of going to prom,” Jackson-Gordon said. “We take them shopping and we get them a brand-new prom dress and shoes.”
Jackson-Gordon said this year, one student they sponsored had already purchased her dress, so the organization paid for her alterations, hair and makeup.
They’ve purchased prom gowns for several young ladies, and hope to someday help a male student buy prom attire, as well.
Taylor said that they will go to any store the student has in mind when looking for the perfect gown. Jackson-Gordon added that the students send them photos from the special night.
The friends agreed that it was nice to have a “night out with the girls” at the adult prom, and laughed while reflecting on their own high school festivities.
“We had more fun then,” Taylor said with a grin. “We were younger. It was more carefree. Now we’re just watching the clock, because we have to get back home before we turn into pumpkins!”