What started as a high school service project has become a lasting charity effort to make sure all girls who want to go to their proms can feel confident and beautiful on a fun evening with their friends.
About seven years ago, Cheryle Podgorski, her daughter Lauren, who was a student at Granby Memorial High School, and her friends were looking for a meaningful community service project. They had read about a similar organization in San Francisco called the Princess Project and they decided to attempt it right here in Connecticut.
Cheryle and Lauren's desire? To see every Connecticut girl feel like a princess on the night of their prom.
As the economy has taken a downturn, more and more girls are finding the expensive investment in one night of fun, despite its adolescent importance, too costly to afford.
"We have girls that live in shelters or girls that could have afforded a dress last year but this year their moms are out of a job," said Podgorski. According to reports, the average prom night can cost between $175 and $2,100 when you total up the event ticket, dress, accessories, limousine rental, photos, and after party activities. This is certainly hundreds of dollars that many families just don't have.
"It's been so extremely successful." said Podgorski and despite the fact that her girls are off to college, there has been no stopping this effort. Now, during the annual Gown Giveaway Event, Podgorski says between 2,000 and 2,500 dresses pass from the racks into girls' hands to be used on prom night.
"We have it every year at the Hilton Garden Inn," said Podgorski. "It’s a very elegant affair."
Each young pre-registered woman who attends the Gown Giveaway has their own personal shopper and a private dressing room to try her dresses on. "It has become more and more popular as more girls have come and seen how beautiful the dresses are."
When they started this event, Cheryle and her daughter stored the gowns in her living room and rented a UHaul to drive them to the giveaway location. Now, thanks to the help of Best Cleaners, each dress is professionally cleaned, stored and delivered making it possible to grow the stock of available dresses and securing them during off-months.
"Best Cleaners enabled us to grow," said Podgorski. "We are at a point where we are helping as many girls as we can."
Princess and the Prom accepts prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses and accessories. They are also specifically looking for large size dresses.
If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, dresses can be dropped off at any of Best Cleaners 11 locations and at the Farmington Valley YMCA-Granby from March 1 to March 15.
If you would like to register to go shopping at the Gown Giveaway Event, to be held Friday, March 30 - April 1 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Windsor, go ahead and register here.