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L. Boutique Manager Mary Spittell, right, assists Riverview High School senior Marina Robinson in finding the perfect prom dress and shoes.
Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 6 years ago

Cinderellas in hot pursuit of local fairy godmothers

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

When the clock strikes midnight, hundreds of girls will have experienced one of the most unforgettable nights of their life — the prom.

But because not every girl can afford to purchase her picture-perfect evening gown and glass slippers, that’s where the Cinderella Project comes in.

Three years ago, Judy Alexander noticed a garage-sale sign announcing new formal gowns for $20. As she contemplated purchasing the dresses for a group of less fortunate teenagers with whom she worked, her cousin called, and the two started discussing the Cinderella Project.

“She asked me to send the dresses to Houston, but I thought, ‘Why would I send them to you when I can do the same thing here?’” Alexander said. “I bought 10 gowns.”

The Cinderella Project exists to give every girl the opportunity to choose from hundreds of gowns, shoes and accessories donated by “fairy godmothers” and pose with friends and a handsome mannequin wearing a tux for a keepsake photo.

Last year, Joyce Berk volunteered with the project for the first time.

“When they look into the mirror and see themselves and say, ‘This is the one I want,’ and then pick out their shoes and bag and are beaming from ear-to-ear, it’s so moving, so touching,” Berk said.

When Alexander first organized the project locally in 2009, she asked each girl who wished to participate to fill out an application and supply details about herself and why she would like a prom dress.

Chelsea Juannell Williams, then a senior at Booker High School, wrote that spending excess money for a prom dress might hinder her family’s ability to pay household bills. She hoped a fairy godmother would be generous enough to lend her a dress.

“The dress fit perfectly,” Williams said. “It was a light teal, almost greenish. I remember leaving Pino’s — all of my friends were dressed up as well — and everyone gave us applause. They could tell we were going to prom, and it was a really nice feeling that they knew it was my special day.”

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]


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