Olevia Peña sashayed in front of the mirror. She moved the fluffy, electric pink skirt this way and that. The thick layers of fabric rustled against the floor in dramatic fashion.
This. This was the one.
Peña’s face glowed. Her mother smiled brightly. The two faced the mirror together and took in the sight of Pena as she took her first step toward an important teenage milestone.
Peña was ready for prom. But without the help of her classmates, she might have had to spend the night at home, her memories of prom merely a “what if?”
On Saturday, the Junior Auxiliary of the Eastern Shore and the Fairhope High School Future Business Leaders of America hosted the third annual Project Prom event. There the organizations provided hundreds of donated dresses, pairs of shoes and accessories for prom bound girls across the county to choose from, all for free.
The students flitted between towering racks of glitter, rhinestones and lace, sharing tips and laughs as they helped each attendee collect an armful of gowns to try.
“It’s exciting that we get to help them be beautiful and go to the prom,” said Hannah Beall of Fairhope High School who helped organize the event.
The members of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America were quick to point out that helping their classmates be present for the traditional event was important to them.
“It’s a rite of passage, we want to help them be there,” said Molly Walding, of the school’s organization. “This gives girls an opportunity to get to go to prom with a dress they love.”
Girls from across the county came Saturday to find their dream dress. As each girl searched the racks their moms thanked organizers.
“We’re a week to week family so this is very helpful. She wouldn’t go otherwise,” one mom said as she helped her daughter carry several pairs of shoes to try on with her gown.
Many attendees were impressed with the number of choices. The organizations gathered more than 500 gowns for the girls to choose from. In all 70 girls walked away ready to walk the prom’s red carpet.
“This is so inclusive; they really have every size and every style. It’s really cool,” said Josie Conway, of Fairhope.
Over and over through the morning as dresses slid on and off the racks, the happy chattering of teens was punctuated by gasps when an attendee found, the one.
For Peña, that moment came when she spotted the floor length gown featuring a sweetheart neckline tucked into the rack of gowns.
“She was looking through the racks kind of going eh, eh and then her eyes lit up,” said Ashley Marass the Junior Auxiliary who was helping Peña at the time. “This has been amazing.”