KENWOOD — In a pre-prom ritual, nearly 700 high school junior and senior girls will line up in front of Price Elementary School on Saturday to pick out their free dresses.
“All we ask is they send us a picture afterwards,” said Dorian Carter, one of the founders of the Glass Slipper Project, which for 16 years has given a free prom dress, shoes and accessories to any girl who asked.
A group of 500 volunteers will be at the ready at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at the school, 4351 S. Drexel Blvd., to serve as personal shoppers for the stream of high school girls who will pore over more than 10,000 donated dresses looking for the perfect one.
The school will see a steady stream of about 700 girls a day on three consecutive Saturdays through April 19 and send about 2,200 off with one of the donated dresses.
“We provide everything but the date and the dinner,” Carter said.
She said prom is for many Chicago girls the only formal event they will ever attend and she wants to do what she can to make sure they have one positive experience in high school.
“It’s a difficult time and there are lots of obstacles and prom is a rite of passage that tells you everything is going to be OK,” Carter said.
She said does it more for the affection for young girls going through a difficult time than for any special affinity for prom.
“It was just OK,” she said of her own prom.
Carter grew up in Hyde Park, attending Murray Elementary before her family moved to Daytona Beach, Fla., when she was 12.
She said she can’t remember now if Michael Snyder took her to Red Lobster or a rib place, but recalled that “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynrd was the class song.
“High school is so cruel, prom shouldn’t be,” Carter said.
She said the volunteers make special accommodations for girls with disabilities or who are attending prom pregnant, overly self-conscious about their body or simply are alone as they get ready for prom.
“We probably dote on the ones that come on their own even more,” Carter said.
This year the Glass Slipper Project is getting some extra help.
Zengler Cleaners has collected donated dresses at its eight suburban locations and will bring 6,000 additional dresses to Price Elementary on Saturday, assuring that there will be fresh options for the girls who don’t make it out on the first Saturday.
USAgain, a Chicago-based clothing recycling company, also helped collect 3,000 dresses and will recycle all the dresses that aren’t picked off the racks and that the Glass Slipper Project doesn’t want to hold onto for next year.
“USAgain last year started hosting a dress giveaway and this year we decided to join forces,” said Scott Burnham, a spokesman for the company, adding that it was a natural fit for the company.
The event will be open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for three Saturdays starting this weekend.
Carter said once a girl is inside, it usually takes about two hours to pick out a dress, shoes, makeup and accessories.