HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Each year on the first Sunday in March, the High Springs Lions Club opens its doors and makes dreams come true for local teenage girls by offering free prom gowns, shoes and corsages. The motto of the event is “If it Fits, It’s Yours.”
The dresses and accessories are donations from past proms, formal affairs or weddings and are collected throughout the year. The event is successful due to support and sponsorship from the local community, and the event serves an increasing number of girls each year.
Items and funds are donated by people throughout the community through the club’s “Donate a Dress - Support a Dream” team project. Local businesses provide additional services to make it a complete magical experience for the teenagers. Referred to as Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers, they offer such free services as boutonnieres and corsages from flower shops, tailors for alterations, limos and party buses, hair salons for nails, hair and makeup, photographers, DJ /bands, tux rentals and caterers.
The Lions Club also creates a book for the girls for use at special events throughout their lives. “We are trying to create a guide book so they can use it not just for prom but also for their next prom (senior) or wedding as well as a memory book of their event,” said Lions Club member Barb Kowats.
Cinderella’s Closet was founded in 2006 in Lakeside Park, Kentucky, after Erin Peterson overheard a teenager ask a consignment shop clerk if a gown on display could be put on hold while she figured out how to pay for it. The teenager asked her foster mother for the money, but a prom dress was an extra in life, and its price was out of their reach. Seeing her disappointment, Peterson stepped in bought the dress for her. As tears flooded her eyes, said she would look “just like Cinderella.”
In partnership with Immanuel United Methodist Church, Cinderella’s Closet was born. Through donations of new and gently used formal dresses and accessories, the organization was able to “Turn Dresses into Dreams” for juniors and seniors referred to the organization by their schools, community organizations or social care agencies. The program ensures that costs associated with attending prom are not a financial burden on a family by offering the gown shopping experience at no extra cost. But the benefit is more than just a dress, Cinderella's Closet provides an unforgettable experience for these girls to remember for the rest of their lives.
In High Springs, Kelly Dees, who owned All Creation Salon, heard about the idea and began working with the High Springs Lions Club to sponsor a local event in 2010. Dees ran the program and recruited sponsors while the Lions Club provided the location, additional sponsors and staff to hold the event. Lion member Karen Drake said, “Kelly's passion for Cinderella's Closet to make a difference was unparalleled, and without this program many young people wouldn't have been able to attend their prom or other formal events.”
While most donations and services have already been collected, the HSLC is still accepting donations until the event on March 6. The club also accepts cash donations they can use to buy accessories or more dresses from thrift stores.
“We currently have about 400 dresses that we will be putting out at the club for the girls to pick from on Sunday,” said Karen Drake.
Anyone who would like to donate a dress or money can contact Drake for more information by messaging her on Cinderella's Closet at the High Springs Lions Club Facebook page or by calling 386-454-4521 and leaving a message.
“The greatest reward for doing this is the happiness on the faces of the girls as they pick a dress and have a chance to enjoy their prom and the memories it will leave them,” said Drake. “Without this charity event many of these girls could not afford to go to their prom. To be able to help them make this dream come true is worth all the work the club puts into the event.”
The Cinderella’s Closet event will take place March 6, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the High Springs Lions Club at 26900 West U.S. Highway 27 in High Springs and is open to everyone.
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