March 25, 2016
The long line outside the small boutique at YWCA Central Alabama formed early, and there was an air of hopefulness and excitement surrounding the young girls who had come from miles away. Inside, the rows of formal dresses twinkled and sparkled under the overhead lights as the girls searched intently for the perfect prom dress.
“I’m going to slay everyone there,” Hueytown High School junior DeAnna Johnson said in teen terms as she envisioned her big night. In other words, she was confident she would be the best dressed.
Like DeAnna, the other girls twisted and turned in the mirror with approval while mothers looked on in relief. Their fear of not being able to afford a dress was now gone.
“Everywhere I went, the dresses were just so expensive,” said Wylissa Graham, mother of Centerpoint High School senior Shadiamondy Riley. “I was trying to find something at a reasonable price, but some dresses were close to $600.”
Then a friend told them about YWCA Central Alabama’s Prom Palooza, which was held March 12 in Pell City and March 19 at the YW’s downtown Birmingham location. The annual events provide free dresses to girls who may not otherwise be able to get one. They can also get shoes and accessories, as well.
The assistance was right on time, said DeAnna’s mother, Lisa Johnson. The single mother had been worried about how she would pay for dresses for both DeAnna and her sister, Tayzha, a senior at HHS. The two dresses she had on layaway cost nearly $800, and her daughters could sense the burden she felt.
“I feel very blessed and lucky to come here and get a dress knowing that my mom was struggling,” Tayzha said. “It was really going to be hard on her.”
According to YW Volunteer Coordinator Mary Jane Gibson, who organized the event, removing the worry from this special occasion is what Prom Palooza is all about.
“We know that prom night is such a special time for young girls, and the YW wants to be sure none of them have to miss it because of a hardship,” Gibson said. “We are just so grateful for those who help us make this possible, including volunteers, community donors and businesses like Renaissance Consignment & Marketplace, which donated nearly 50 dresses this year. Together, we are filling a void and creating lifetime memories.”
As a result, the girls get to focus solely on the fun.
“My boyfriend is going to love this dress, and I’m so excited! It’s the one night out of the year where I can dress up and really feel beautiful and good about myself,” Tayzha added with a smile. “And it all starts with this dress.”
If you know someone who may benefit from Prom Palooza, have them contact their high school counselor or call 205.322.9922 ext. 161.
To get involved with the YWCA or support our programs, click here.