Cinderella’s Closet donates prom dresses

Church program helps girls afford their big night.

The prom dress a girl chooses often becomes as important as prom night itself. But for many girls, the expense of the dress, coupled with the accessories, hair and makeup, makes prom night something about which some can only dream.

Carlisle High School senior Kyra Utech, 18, says her senior prom on May 9 ended up being “the best school dance I’d ever been to,” thanks to an organization called Cinderella’s Closet.

The group donates prom dresses and accessories to needy girls who might not otherwise have an opportunity to attend.

Linda Anderson of St. Cloud, Minn., a longtime friend of Utech’s mother, Janet Johnston, said Kyra is deserving for many reasons. “I have known Kyra since she was a newborn and have watched her grow up,” said Anderson. “Her family has struggled with a sick child (Utech’s younger sister Zoe) and they nearly lost her. Kyra has sacrificed so much for her sister. She gave up marching band — something she loved — her senior year, because her family couldn’t afford to pay for both girls to do it. As an older woman looking at a young lady, I see that it’s such a sacrifice she made during her senior year for her sister. She has a loving heart.”

And though Anderson doesn’t see the family often, she and Utech correspond often, and Utech has purchased some of Anderson’s handmade jewelry, which she has worn to several school dances. “I’ve been so honored that she would trust me to make some jewelry pieces for her,” Anderson said. “She is a special young lady.”

In addition to marching band, Utech has been involved with Winter Guard and performs in four different choirs. She has also played the piano since the age of 7. Her sister, Zoe, now 17, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was a sixth-grader.

“Zoe was in the hospital for about three weeks when she was first diagnosed,” Utech said. “She has to have surgery this summer because she is sick a lot.”

Utech also has two younger brothers, Evan, 14 and Joah, 9.

Anderson said the family has overcome many struggles, but Utech has a “wonderful stepfather” now. Still, money is tight, and Utech worked a job to help out. “I started working at Dairy Queen to help pay my sister’s band fee,” Utech said.

According to some published reports, average prom expenditures are now surpassing $1,100, with the majority of this spent on that special dress.

Utech found her “fairy godmother” in Cinderella’s Closet. “My choir teacher, Mrs. Shively, heard about Cinderella’s Closet at Center Pointe Church and nominated me and two of my friends, and we were chosen to go and get free dresses, shoes and accessories,” Utech said.

Utech and her friends went to the church on April 12, met her “fairy godmother,” Lisa, and was given the royal treatment, until she found the perfect dress for her special night.”

“Junior and senior high school girls are referred to us by a school staff member, social worker or community liaison,” said Sara Mosteller, director of Cinderella’s Closet in Liberty Twp. “Girls come to us for all different reasons, and we don’t require proof of need. They are paired with a ‘fairy godmother’ who shows them love and makes them feel like they are smart, talented and pretty all day long.”

Girls coming to Cinderella’s Closet go home with a prom dress, shoes and jewelry of their choosing, all of which are theirs to keep. Each also receives an 8-by-10 photo taken in the dresses.

“We have more than 1,500 dresses here, either donated or purchased with donated funds,” Mosteller said. “Prom costs a lot of money and I can tell you that many of these girls just wouldn’t get to attend unless they could get assistance. I have watched countless girls come in with their heads down and they put on a formal dress and we compliment them and it makes them feel good. The most rewarding part is to watch the girls change on the inside because of what is happening on the outside.”

Utech and her friends enjoyed a wonderful prom night at Yankee Trace Golf Club on April 9 as a result of the dress donation. And on May 31, she will graduate from Carlisle High School and has plans to study nursing and also attend cosmetology school.

For more information about Cinderella’s Closet, go online to www.cinderellasclosetusa.org.

What is Cinderella’s Closet?

Cinderella’s Closet of Southwest Ohio provides a formal prom gown, shoes and jewelry all free of charge. Once a guest enters Cinderella’s Closet, they are lavished with hospitality. They leave knowing they are valued and beautiful.

Donation information:

Cinderella’s Closet relies on the generous donations of formal wear and needs formal dresses in excellent condition and less than 3 years old. They also accept shoes, purses, wraps and monetary donations.

Donations can be dropped off at one of two locations:

1. Center Pointe Christian Church, 5962 Hamilton Mason Road, Liberty Twp., Ohio 45011. Donations can be dropped off to the church office (just ring the doorbell when you arrive) 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. To drop off donations on the weekend, bring them to the Connections area from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Please mark all donations Cinderella’s Closet.

2. Healing Center on Vineyard Cincinnati’s campus, 11340 Century Circle East, Cincinnati, OH 45246. Outside of the Healing Center, on the right side of the building, are two large white metal bins. Donations can be dropped into the bins at any time, day or night. Please mark all donations Cinderella’s Closet.

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