By Baileigh Rebowe | LSU Student
High school girls from throughout Louisiana who want to look beautiful for prom but may not have the money to do so are the focus of The Cinderella Project shopping spree this weekend in Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
The project is a non-profit organization dedicated to building confidence and self-esteem in young females. This Saturday (March 24) a select group will have the opportunity this Saturday to shop for the perfect dress, shoes and accessories at no cost to them.
The 5th annual Cinderella Project Dress Giveaway will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Exxon Mobil YMCA in Baton Rouge, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lafayette Hilton Garden Inn. (Monroe, the third site where this event is held, already held its giveaway.)
Check-in is on a first come-first-served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. Each student will receive a 30-minute appointment with a volunteer personal shopper. There are no signup fees or registration papers; girls need to only bring a valid photo ID and be accompanied by a female parent/guardian to be able to shop. Proof of income or other financial statements are not required.
"The average cost of a prom ticket is $60," said Shelton Jones, co-founder of The Cinderella Project. "Buying a dress, shoes, and accessories can add up."
Almost 2,000 dresses in an assortment of colors and sizes have been donated, according to Jones. The event will be set up like a real retail store with dressing rooms and options for shoes and accessories. Minor on-site alterations will be available and door prizes will be given away throughout the day.
"Every young lady should feel like a princess for one night and this is a great way for them to do this," said Jones. "Prom is such an important milestone and it should be fun for these girls, something to look forward to, not something hey should have to miss out on."
The Cinderella Project Baton Rouge was started in 2008 as a way to support young women statewide with resources that may not exist for them otherwise. Since its founding, the organization has collected 15,000 dress donations and distributed 3600 dresses to students in more than 80 high schools.
In Lafayette, the idea started in 2008 as the UL-Lafayette AmeriCorps Prom Dress Drive, a student service project that was small but successful, according to Americorp Director Judd Jeansonne. Some 40 high school girls found dresses at the drive the first year and the event grew until recently the group partnered with the Cinderella Project in 2011 to be able to provide more dresses and reach girls across the state.
Last year, The Cinderella Project Lafayette dress giveaway included 900 dresses and nearly 200 girls.
The organization currently has three chapters -- Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Monroe – and is interested in expanding to more areas in the future.