Cinderella Project: Helping girls feel like a princess for prom, one dress at a time

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Cinderella made it to the ball with the help of her fairy godmother. With the wave of a wand she donned a sparkling new dress, free of charge. Adrienne Wissner and her staff at Memories Bridal and Evening Wear have become fairy godmothers of sorts to a lot of teenage girls who cannot afford to go to prom. They’ve given the girls the dress of their dreams … for free.

It’s called the Cinderella Project, and they’re getting ready for this year’s event on Saturday, March 26.

“That day we bring all of our dresses out of storage, set them up like a beautiful boutique and invite any girl in that can’t afford to buy her own dress to come in select a dress, shoes, accessories free of charge that day and wear it to her prom,” said Wissner.

The boutique will be at the Girl Scouts building on Maple Street. Wissner said they’ve collected over 2,000 gently-used dresses so far from people in the area and various consignment shops. They’ve accepted donations throughout the year and are always looking for plus-size dresses.

“It just breaks my heart if we can’t find a dress for someone,” said Wissner. “So anything size 20 and up that’s prom-related, we would love, love your support.”

The project is in its tenth year. Wissner knew the moment she opened her shop, she wanted to give back to the community.

“I loved the idea of being able to help girls that couldn’t be able to afford dresses like everybody else,” said Wissner. “As soon as we moved up to the Kalamazoo area we help start the Cinderella Project here so that every girl gets that chance to feel like a princess at least once.”

That’s how Sydney Willi said she felt during her prom in 2015, like a princess. She was on the prom committee at her school and couldn’t afford to spends hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a dress.

“Even if I didn’t get a dress I probably would’ve gone in a jeans and a sweatshirt. That was just me,” said Willi who learned of the project from a teacher. “She told a lot of us girls about it and it was just really exciting to find out that there was like a chance of actually getting a dress.”

Willi selected a cobalt blue dress for her prom. She went with a group of friends while other girls attend with their moms.

“A lot of the girls, their mothers didn’t get a chance to attend prom either,” said Wissner. “So for them it’s extra special because they get to share this with their daughter and then they know what a special experience it was because they weren’t able to do it themselves.”

Whether a girl comes with friends or parents, there’s always a lot of tears said Wissner. It's usually a good sign that they've done their job.

“I get a little teared up once in a while,” said Wissner. “I get really excited each time a girl finds that perfect dress.”

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