Durham woman plans prom for ill, disabled youth

Posted March 24, 2011 9:30 p.m. EDT
Updated March 25, 2011 6:08 a.m. EDT

— 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. 

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.