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Prom dress dreams do come true

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Photo by Kelly White

Abigail Harder, 15, of Worth, searched for a prom dress on Saturday afternoon at Oak Lawn Community High School’s Cinderella’s Closet.

By Kelly White

Cinderella needed a fancy dress to wear to the ball, and just like the fictional character, high school students want to look their absolute best for prom.

However, the cost of prom can add up quick.

Oak Lawn Community High School aided in helping students find the perfect formal gear during its seventh annual Cinderella’s Closet, a program designed to help the school’s female students get prom gear at a significantly lower cost.

“Prom is expensive and not everyone can afford dresses from boutiques,” said Maria Vanderwarren, executive assistant to the superintendent of Oak Lawn Community High School District 229. “We started this to help families with the cost and to give every girl the opportunity to attend prom or dances with a beautiful dress. This is all about making the girls happy.”

The event was held on Saturday at the high school, 9400 Southwest Highway, Oak Lawn, and was sponsored by Vanderwarren, along with Bob Brida, the Behavior Intervention Room facilitator and the staff sponsor of the SADD Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions). A total of 12 SAAD student members also took part.

“Cinderella’s Closet is a great opportunity for students to get an awesome dress and for families to donate a dress to a great cause,” said Marcus Wargin, assistant principal at OLCHS.

“I think it’s great that Oak Lawn Community High School does this for us,” said Oak Lawn resident Amber Lawrence, 18, a senior at Oak Lawn Community High School. “Dresses are so expensive for prom and this way everybody can afford to go without worrying about money.”

The school, in conjunction with the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association, held a collection drive items for Cinderella’s Closet. Over 200 lightly-used dresses and 40 pairs of shoes were donated. However, the collection did not stop there as other items included accessories and unopened make-up. All dresses were dry cleaned before being donated.

All items were available for a small fee to current OLCHS students and surrounding students from neighboring schools. The event was not strictly limited to the high school.

All dresses were sold for a flat rate of $10, all shoes $2, and all unopened makeup was sold for just $1.

“Inspiration for me to start this was to minimize the expense of prom for teens, and for them to be able to attend looking and feeling like Cinderella,” said Brida.

Students loved the sale as well.

“It’s cool that Oak Lawn Community High School provides a way that people can turn in their dresses so that they can get recycled and used again for a great purpose,” said Oak Lawn resident Breyanna Taylor, 16, who is a junior at OLCHS.

“You’re able to find an entire outfit for prom without paying one thousand dollars,” said Ana Torres, 18, of Oak Lawn.

All proceeds from Cinderella’s Closet went directly to benefit the OLCHS’s post-prom cruise on Lake Michigan. Students will be picked up in buses after prom and taken to Navy Pier. From there, they will enjoy a cruise along the coast of Lake Michigan. Music, refreshments, and hot appetizers are provided. After several hours, the buses take them back to Oak Lawn Community High School.

“Cinderella’s Closet is not a fundraiser,” Vanderwarren said. “It is a mission to make every girl’s prom dream come true.”

“There’s a really great selection of dresses available,” said Abigail Harder, 15, of Worth.

More than 50 students from various high schools attended Saturday’s event, including students from Oak Lawn High School, Reavis High School in Burbank, St. Gerald Elementary School in Oak Lawn, and Hancock High School in Chicago. A total of $300 was collected at last year’s event, and this year will not be any different, according to OLCHS staff members.

“During high school, there is a lot of pressure to wear the right thing or to spend a lot of money on formal wear to special events,” said Dr. Jeana Lietz, principal of OLCHS. “This can be challenging financially for families, and some see this as wasteful. This program solves both of those problems. Students can purchase lightly used, or sometimes even new, dresses and accessories for a very small amount. It also allows students who will not wear their dress again to donate it to someone who will. I love the message of kindness and re-use that it sends to our students.”

 

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