Fairy Godmother Project makes prom affordable

Mar. 6—PERU — A group of high school girls put on some tunes and danced a few songs in their neon prom dresses.

It's one thing to try on a dress and have it fit. It's another to be comfortable enough to dance. Both are important features of any prom dress.

Those girls took the dresses home for free.

Saturday was the Fairy Godmother Project of Miami County, which provides free prom dresses to high school girls.

The annual event draws hundreds of girls each year, both locally and from afar.

Saturday's event started at 10 a.m. at the Miami County Fairgrounds but a line had formed by 8 a.m. Organizers let people in early.

"It's expanded from Miami County," Alexandra Merritt, a senior at Maconaquah High School, said. "We've had girls from Lewis Cass ... this has expanded beyond Miami County walls."

That's probably an understatement as the event has seen people from multiple states attend, all to get a free prom dress.

A Fox 59 news segment ahead of last year's event got the word out far and wide. Kara Baker, president of the Fairy Godmother Project and student at Peru High School, said people have come from Kentucky, Ohio and as far as Idaho and Maine in previous years.

The Fairy Godmother Project has thousands of gently used dresses ranging from size 0 to 26. Most dresses are locally donated from individual people, boutiques and girls who attended the event in previous years.

"The people who wear it donate it right back," Baker said.

About 250 dresses were given away Saturday.

"We like to see how fast our prom dresses go," Merritt said.

Baker and Merritt served as "fairies" who assisted girls in looking for and trying on dresses.

"We boost them up," Baker said. "I just love helping people."

Fairies were from all three Miami County high schools.

"I think every girl will tell you they have a passion for service," Merritt said.

Janessa Hierholzer left Saturday afternoon with a white dress. The home-schooled student got a dress last year through the Fairy Godmother Project for her 14th birthday.

Why white?

"(Because) I feel like I look best in it," she said.

Hierholzer said the event helped "tremendously" as "prom dresses are extremely expensive."

A prom dress can run between $300 and $500, if not more depending on accents and style. This year, neon dresses are in style. Last year, it was poofy dresses.

The Fairy Godmother Project isn't just for prom dresses, though, because prom isn't just about the dress. One needs a corsage, shoes and makeup, too.

The Fairy Godmother Project had girls covered on those ends as well.

Angela Case, store manager for St. Vincent de Paul in Peru, handmade 370 corsages for Saturday. Girls could pick one out for free and were available in every color of dress. It's the eighth year Case has made them for the event.

"It's a creative outlet," said Case, who used to work in a flower shop. "I can help girls, to make them happy when they get a nice dress and corsage that compliments it. I love to see the girls' faces."

Shoes and makeup were also provided free of charge.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.