Ah ... the prom. Weeks of gossiping about dates, searching for that perfect dress and negotiating dinner plans leads up to the big night that starts with endless photos for the parents, then dancing and, well, we'll leave it at that.
Now, imagine a prom where the shopping starts and ends in your closet or at the thrift store; there's no worry about dates other than making sure all of your closest mom friends can make it; and heavy hors d'oeuvre and wine are served once you get there.
That's the Raleigh Mom Prom, a Wake County charity event now in its fifth year. It's set for March 7 at the TPC Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh. Tickets, which are $75, go on sale this week. The women-only event has an Oscars theme this year.
"It's the best girls night out ever," said Rebekah Anderson, an organizer and mom of two. "It is such a magical, special event."
Look at the photos on the Raleigh Mom Prom's website and you'll get a flavor of the evening. Here, you have grown women donning their wedding dresses, old bridesmaid dresses, a frilly number they picked up at a thrift shop or maybe something fun they splurged on. Some even show up in their actual prom dresses from decades ago.
They mug for the cameras with cardboard cutouts of "stars" like Fabio, pose under balloon arches and even crown a prom queen.
But the event is magical for Anderson for reasons other than it's a great night out with friends. Stephanie Armstrong, the event's founder, started it as a way to raise money for Anderson's daughter, Liviya, now 10.
At age 6, Liviya was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare and life-threatening blood disease where the bone marrow shuts down. It's a devastating diagnosis. Liviya has been through a long, rough and dangerous course of treatments. She is doing well, but there is no cure. She has a 50 percent chance of a relapse in her lifetime and a 50 percent chance of survival.
Liviya and Armstrong's child attended the same school when Liviya was diagnosed. Armstrong wanted to help her family, Anderson said. Anderson was happy for the opportunity to raise awareness and money for aplastic anemia and help other kids who are battling it and other serious diseases.
In the first year, the Mom Prom raised money for Beads of Courage, a program where critically ill children earn beads to represent different stages in their treatment. Liviya took part in the program while she was treated at UNC Children's Hospital. The event raised money for the sibling program where kids with a seriously ill brother or sister earn beads for their own sacrifices and hurdles.
Now, the event raises money for both Beads of Courage and aplastic anemia research. Because the disease is so rare, little money is set aside for scientists to research treatments and a cure, Anderson said. Each year, just 600 to 900 people in the United States learn they have the disease, according to the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation.
The Anderson family is working to raise money for aplastic anemia research through Liviya's research fund. Some of the money raised during the Mom Prom goes to the fund.
"We are just so humbled by our village and all these people who are taking so much of their time and energy to make this happen," Anderson said.
I've tried to write about the Mom Prom for a couple of years, but this event is so popular that tickets have sold out within hours of them going on sale.
This year, organizers have moved it to a bigger venue at TPC Wakefield Plantation that can accommodate 275 dancing moms - about 75 to 100 more than in past years, Anderson said.
The event will have a ticket presale party at Wine 101 in Wake Forest this week. From 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, moms are encouraged to head over to the shop to buy a bottle of wine of any price to contribute toward the Mom Prom wine cellar, which will be one of the event's silent auction items. The wine purchase also gets attendees a chance to buy a ticket to the Mom Prom a day before tickets go on sale to the general public.
The presale party's Facebook page has more information. RSVP by Facebook is required for the presale party. It's limited to the first 100 people.
Tickets will go on sale to the public on Friday and are expected to sell out very fast.
"It is dancing and it's a sense of sisterhood," Anderson said. "We all come together as moms, friends and sisters to really try to change the world and try to find a cure for something that doesn't have a voice."
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