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‘Fairy godmother’ helps dress Grand Junction area teens

April 2, 2018

In this Saturday, March 24, 2018 photo, Nikole Lester, a student at Fruita Monument High School, picks out a prom dress at the Elks Club in downtown Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson/Grand Junction Sentinel via AP)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — After years of helping hundreds of teenage girls find just the right thing to wear to prom, Cheryl Whitehurst has a knack for knowing when they’ve found “the one.”

“Their faces just light up,” she said. “I just love it, the fairy princess thing, all of it.”

Whitehurst never had the chance to attend prom herself, as she was already a mother by the time she was a senior in high school.

But she loves bringing the joy to teenagers and knowing that not having something to wear won’t be a reason to keep them from going.

In late March, the annual Free Prom Dress and Menswear Giveaway attracted students from across the valley and volunteers spent hours combing through racks of silk, sequins and strapless gowns to help each teenager find something suitable to wear.

And for the first time, the program helped teenage boys find just the right thing to wear to dances this year, too.

Whitehurst, a full-time housekeeper at a local assisted-living center who is also a seamstress, collects formalwear throughout the year, as well as accessories and shoes for anyone who needs something to wear to prom.

She and the other volunteers receive donations of dresses and suits worn once or twice, which would otherwise just hang in closets.

She and about 20 other volunteers collect the clothes, alter them and make sure they fit each teenager.

No questions are asked and everyone finds something they can wear.

Kenzie Dodd, 14, has volunteered with the event for four years and calls Whitehurst the “prom dress fairy godmother.” She’s glad they started offering menswear for the first time, “because the guys usually pay for the dinner and the tickets and it’s expensive for them, too.”

A grant from the Elks Lodge helped start the menswear collection this year.

Central High School student Nathan Jones, 16, found a suit to wear to his church’s prom at the last minute. He was grateful to find a bowtie to complete the look.

Josh Matney, 14, who was volunteering but also found a pinstripe suit to wear to the dance at the Fruita 8-9 School, said it’s important for guys to look good, too.

“Sometimes guys don’t go to prom because they don’t have something to wear,” Matney said. “It’s just as important for a guy to look schnazzy.”

Fruita Monument High School senior Uriah Pfeffer, 17, said he’d have to ask his parents for money to rent a tuxedo without the event, as he cannot afford to buy a suit with his after-school job earnings working at Burger King and wouldn’t have something to wear otherwise.

“You want it to be just right,” he said. “It’s the night that you always remember.” He found a gray suit he plans on keeping for job interviews.

Whitehurst started organizing the event with friends eight years ago, after the founder of the event passed the torch.

She knew how expensive attending the prom was from having two daughters, and knew many kids wouldn’t attend if they didn’t have something to wear, so she wanted to keep it going.

Volunteers have collected roughly 1,200 dresses, which Whitehurst refers to as the “rolling collection,” and knows that many of the dresses will return to her after prom season is over this spring, ready to be kept in storage and given away next year.

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Information from: The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com

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