MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — For many a teenage girl in Latin America, a "quinceanera" party is a cherished rite of passage, a traditional coming-out celebration for 15-year-olds.
Not all families can afford the colorful gowns and other niceties for such parties, though. So for each of the past five years, Nicaragua's Association of Mothers and Fathers of Children with Cancer and Leukemia has put on a quinceanera for girls from poor, rural families — teens who have the added burden of dealing with cancer.
This year's party feted 37 girls between ages 14 and 16 on Saturday night at a hotel in Nicaragua's capital, Managua.
Donors, taking the role of "padrinos," or godparents, paid for the girls' dresses and shoes, the floral arrangements, cakes and other refreshments. Each padrino also paid for medicine for three or four of the girls.
Nicaragua's Military Academy sent cadets to be the girls' escorts and dance partners.
Yamileth Barrera, a 16-year-old from San Jose de Bocay, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Managua, said she really enjoyed being with the other girls and wasn't kept from dancing by the wheelchair she uses because of bone cancer.
"I am happy because only once in a life do you celebrate your 15th year," she said.