Hundreds of girls filtered through the doors of Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette on Saturday on a determined quest to find the perfect prom dress — one Cinderella herself would be proud to wear.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., more than 1,000 dresses were on display during the eighth annual Cinderella Project, hosted by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s AmeriCorps.
“All of this started really small in (the university’s) Student Union with maybe about 100 dresses and 25 girls, and it’s just exploded since then,” said Vanessa Adamson, director of UL-Lafayette AmeriCorps and the Cinderella Project.
“I think it’s such a great opportunity to let every girl have a chance to go to her prom. You’re only going to wear these dresses once, so why not donate it and allow another girl make the same memories at their prom?”
High school juniors and seniors from all around Acadiana were given an opportunity to “say yes to the dress,” as well as to be pampered like princesses for the day. The majority of the dresses came from a dress drive held in February, but boutiques and specialty stores, such as A-Nets Bridal that donated 45 dresses with the price tags still attached, also contributed to the racks.
Adamson said the average price of a prom dress could range from $200 to $400, which doesn’t include the accessories such as shoes and jewelry. Such accessories, as well as dress alterations and personal shoppers, were all part of the free package for students with a valid school ID. The dresses were available on a first-come, first-served basis, and AmeriCorps volunteers provided minor on-the-spot alterations.
Local businesses, such as Caroline & Co. and Tsunami Lafayette, donated raffle prizes for the event. Mary Kay cosmetics representatives set up a beauty booth and worked on the girls’ hair and makeup. Deano’s Pizza sponsored the majority of the event.
“It’s our community,” Adamson said. “Our community backs us and helps us help these girls. The enthusiasm is here, and the excitement is here.”
Jessica Guidry, the 2014 Crawfish Festival queen, said she donated six of her pageant dresses to the cause.
“A lot of girls at UL have dresses to give,” said Guidry, a UL-Lafayette sophomore, “so these girls graduate and go to college and want to come back and help.”
For Northside High School senior Miranda Angelle, finding her embellished, white ball gown was an emotional experience. Adorned with a princess crown, Angelle posed for photos beneath the champagne-pink-and-white balloon arch.
Her personal shopper, UL-Lafayette student Diamond Griffin, said it was hard not to tear up when Angelle said yes to her dress.
“She just looks so pretty in it, and then knowing it’s her first prom that she’s going to and she gets her dream dress — it makes my day,” Griffin said.
With AmeriCorps chapters in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Shreveport, New Orleans and Monroe, the Cinderella Project has distributed 3,600 prom dresses to students at 84 high schools in 18 parishes.
“It’s a turnaround,” said Adamson’s daughter, Avery, a freshman at the university. “We’ve had a lot of girls come back from last year with their dresses to donate and wanting to get a new dress for this year.
“I’ve been doing this for the past few years, and witnessing the girls’ excitement really is amazing. It’s one of the best types of volunteer work that anyone could do, and every year it just gets bigger and bigger. We couldn’t do any of this without the people in the community.”