Durham woman plans prom for ill, disabled youth

Posted March 24, 2011
Updated March 25, 2011

— A Durham woman waiting on a double lung transplant is trying to help inspire young adults and teens in a similar situation. 

After seeing a teen in a wheelchair turned away at a dress shop, Naomi Sjostedt-Smith, 28, decided to throw her own prom for teens with disabilities and illnesses that might keep them from a typical school dance. 

The "Dance Like No One is Watching Gala" is for people ages 14 to 21 who are too ill or have life-altering, emotional disabilities that might prevent them from attending a regular prom.

In high school, Sjostedt-Smith was diagnosed with Cushing's disease, which causes fluid to build up in her brain and lungs. The disease kept her from going to her own prom. 

"I remember how hard it was as a teen to not be able to do the same things that my friends were doing," she said. 

Planning the May 27 event has been difficult for Sjostedt-Smith, who has been waiting for a year for a double lung transplant. She has seizures and is assisted by a service dog. Her mother is also battling terminal breast cancer. 

"What better person to organize and help with this than somebody that knows what they are going through?" she said.  Naomi Sjostedt-Smith Ill, disabled teens to get own prom

Though the date is set, the group has yet to find a venue. Sjostedt-Smith said she had been speaking with one venue, but it burned down.

The group is also seeking caterers, evening gowns, tuxedos and the help of any vendors able to donate services.

"We are working on a budget of zero," Sjostedt-Smith said. "We’re working on a budget of compassion."

To find out how to help with the prom, go to the group's website.


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  • Legal Lady Mar 25, 2011

    I just e-mailed her... I can donate some food and beverages for the event. I do a little catering for friends here and there and would love to whip up a few things for the gala. If anyone else could help with food, that would be great. We will just see what the final number of attendees will be.

  • shellrocks2000 Mar 25, 2011

    I have a dress I would like to donate. This is an amazing event and gesture. We need more people like this in this world today.

  • caniaccutie88 Mar 25, 2011

    Hey Everyone Just wanted to say thanks for all the comments this lovely woman naomi is actually my awesome older sister :) I have watched her through the years struggle with this awful disease and still she has this gift of giving thank you again for all you comments :) I am helping by volunteering to chaperone any help we can get for this awesome occasion would be greatly appriciated :)

  • texasncgirl Mar 25, 2011

    This is amazing! I will be e-mailing her to try and volunteer in some way. I am an amateur photographer and would love to be able to volunteer to take pictures!

  • packersfan4life Mar 25, 2011

    When I was shopping for a bridal gown at David's Bridal, the sales clerk made fun of a woman that she was previously waiting on, and called her, "RETARDED." This was several years ago. Needless to say, she had no clue that I am a special ed teacher. After I lost it on her, she knew.

  • lakeyk1 Mar 25, 2011

    Naomi bless you and your caring soul. My prayers are with you to find a donor SOON! and your mission of putting together a prom for others with health issues and did not get their prom. It is sad what happened to this girl in the wheelchair, but unfortunately it happens more often than it should. It's all about the looks more than what's in the heart. For example, women that seek egg donors with certain specs., such as blonde hair, blue eyes, intelligent. What happened to wanting "just a healthy baby"? And the Reality Show Little Princesses, turning these "young" girls into adult, spoiled b's. Very poor judgment of parental guidance. I have no doubt that you will make this prom happen and I wish you all the best of success. The world could use more people like yourself. God Bless. lakeyk1

  • jbazemore Mar 25, 2011

    We at the Hilton North Raleigh Midtown would be honored to host this Event.I have emailed our contact info.

  • haditup2here Mar 25, 2011

    I'll contact her through their website but I want to put this here as well. I have ZERO authority to offer this venue but want to STRONGLY suggest it.Please go to's a website for Murphey School in Durham.They're a WONDERFUL nonprofit organization & have dances there every month. A BEAUTIFUL facility, & I have a feeling that they would offer you such a great deal that this would be the way to go. AND my husband and I are volunteers at their dances & want to offer our services for set-up, break-down, & anything else we can do. I'm going to contact a DJ and see if he would pitch in his services. I'll try to find someone for a beginner (Jitterbug) class before the dance too. I'm also sending you $10 (I'm unemployed and can't offer much in the way of $).I also want to publicly challenge every member of Triangle Swing Dance Society, Carolina Dance Club & Wake Forest Area Shag Club to send AT LEAST $5 each, in appreciation for our own able-bodies and feet! Share the joy!

  • me2you Mar 25, 2011

    There's already something like this going on called Joy's a big event.

  • kpwoodlief Mar 25, 2011

    Ok I wish the name of the shop was released so other people would know that we did not need to spend our money in that store, because the person must have no compassion or people skills for that matter. Shame on you shop owner!