The Princess Project
Corsages. Taffeta. Lace. Extended curfew. All these words conjure up memories of bygone proms. But for low-income girls across the nation, a magical night to remember may not be possible without help from a few benefactors.
Prom season is well underway and in the spirit of the fairy godmother, Oklahoma’s own Serendipity and Prom Wishes Inc. have been waving their wands of generosity to help turn underprivileged girls into princesses with prom memories of their own.
Kara Hall, owner of Serendipity, a prom and pageant dress store located just west of Edmond on North May Avenue in Oklahoma City, donated 200 dresses to the Princess Project a few months ago. The Princess Project is a non-profit organization that has worked with the Tyra Banks Show in helping to promote self-confidence and individual beauty in low-income young ladies by providing free prom attire.
This 100 percent volunteer-run organization takes donated dresses and accessories in excellent condition, including purses, jewelry, shawls and wraps then distributes them to San Francisco Bay area girls who could not otherwise afford them.
The Princess Project has served over 5,000 girls to date and was started by founders, Laney Whitcanack and Kristi Smith Knutson after receiving one girl’s email asking for help in obtaining a prom dress. That simple request prompted the women to seek help from friends and family. Days later, women from all over the Bay area responded with overwhelming support to the many girls who needed assistance.
Hall has also donated hundreds of dresses to the Cinderella Project; another non-profit organization that has worked with the Oprah Show and is dedicated to helping financially challenged girls in the many counties of New York. Like the Princess Project, they accept donations of quality new and “gently used” gowns and accessories.
Hall’s giving didn’t stop there. She also donated dresses to the annual “dress drive,” organized by the National Women Law Students Association at the Oklahoma City University chapter. And when local cheerleaders came by her store asking for donations for girls in New Orleans, she offered more help.
“We donated a few dresses to Katrina as well,” she explained. Hall enjoys helping people. “You get so many rewards being a business owner. You’ve got to give back and God will reward you.”
Along with helping charitable organizations, Hall also helps pageant contestants with gowns. The newly reigning Miss America, Lauren Nelson, who attends the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, purchased that “perfect” dress at Serendipity — a shimmering black gown she wore when she was crowned.
“Lauren and her directors came in often and we put her in about fifteen dresses,” said Hall. Nelson made the final decision. ” She had to feel like a million bucks,” said Hall.
The Edmond beauty queen previously worked at Serendipity. “Lauren is awesome inside and out. I am sad to lose her as an employee, but happy for what the future holds. I can honestly say we all were bawling when she won,” said Hall who attended the 2007 Miss America pageant in Las Vegas.
A unique feature about Serendipity is that it caters to women of most every size. They are the only store to carry plus-size dresses, carrying sizes 0 to 32. Hall explained that finding dresses in plus sizes can be frustrating for many girls. Serendipity made going to prom possible for one such girl. Her mother was grateful to find her daughter’s dress at Serendipity. “Thank you! You don’t understand how much you’ve done for her,” the mother told Hall.
Another Oklahoman helping less-fortunate girls prepare for prom season is Tiffany Grant, nineteen, who founded Prom Wishes Inc. to help girls in Tulsa when she was just a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school. “I noticed not all girls were attending the prom due to financial reasons. I started and founded a non-profit organization run by teens called Prom Wishes Inc.”
Grant found a community of teens who needed assistance with prom in homeless shelters, foster care and children’s homes as well as daughters of mothers in prison, parents in the military or raised by grandparents and single parents.
Prom Wishes has helped 397 teens from forty-four towns including five boys across the state, some in Oklahoma City.
Grant has received feedback from several girls, letting her know that her organization has helped. One email came from a teen in foster care.
“Thank you very much for doing this for people like me. I had so much fun. If it wasn’t for Prom Wishes Inc., I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful time. My case worker helped me pick out my dress. Thank you for the prom up-do, manicure and dinner gift certificate. It made the night special. – Lisa.”
Have a prom dress to donate? Contact Kara Hall at Serendipity at 286-3278 or contact Tiffany Grant at Prom Wishes Inc. at www.prom-wishes-inc.org.