Party offers disabled youth a prom experience

Posted May 27, 2011 8:26 p.m. EDT
Updated May 27, 2011 11:09 p.m. EDT

— Young adults who might otherwise not get to participate in the right of passage known as the prom dressed to the nines, arrived on the red carpet and danced the night away Friday at the  "Dance Like No One is Watching Gala".

The event 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.

Naomi Sjostedt-Smith, 29, a Durham woman waiting on a double lung transplant, came up with the idea after seeing a teen in a wheelchair turned away at a dress shop.

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. 

The North Raleigh Hilton donated a ballroom, people donated dresses, salons offered free hair and make-up services and a live band rocked the house for about 400 people, Sjostedt-Smith said.

"It's amazing the amount of support the community has shown," she said.