By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Although the prom at Lincoln High School will not take place until April 22nd, organizers of the school’s ‘Prom Princess Project’ are already thinking ahead.
This worthwhile project got its start in 2014 and has been a real blessing for many girls and their families ever since. If it has been a while since you’ve had children in high school, you would most likely be overwhelmed at the expense that is incurred by families when special events such as the prom are held. Formal dresses are not inexpensive … and add to that the right shoes, purse, hair, nails, etc. It is safe to say that these costs can quickly distress even a flexible budget! Thanks to an idea created by a young lady who was a freshman at Lincoln in 2014, many families are thankful.
That 2014 freshman was Kendal DeMarco who helped one young woman get ready for prom that year. The girl had found a dress but wasn’t going to attend the prom because of all those added expenses. Kendal’s family brought the girl to their home, fixed her up with all the appropriate accessories, did her nails and hair and even took photos of the couple to help preserve the memory of this cherished high school event.
Kendal said she knew that there had to be others in the very same situation, so she pursued the idea right away to collect gently used formalwear and accessories that might help ease the financial burden for others when future events were held. The project was given a name, some of Kendal’s friends pitched in to help, and the project has remained ongoing every year – and it has developed even further through the years!
They have set up a “boutique” in a storage room near the library at Lincoln High School. The shop class was enlisted for help, and they erected some shelves from which hang gowns and cocktail dresses in many colors and sizes. Anyone who is in need of a formal dress can visit there and shop the racks until they find the one that suits their taste. When they find it, they simply say “Yes to that perfect dress!”, and it is theirs to keep – at no charge.
“None of this would have been possible without the generosity of so many people,” Kendal remarked. “I can’t begin to tell you how thankful we are for all the donations we have received over the past four years. It started with us just helping provide for prom dresses, but now some girls come in for help with other special occasions like Homecoming and Sweetheart Dance dresses too. It has been really successful and such a fun project to take part in.”
Then came the addition of special occasion shoes, purses, jewelry – all the accessories. And for the prom event, they have taken it a step further and volunteer students help with hair, nails, and makeup as well!
Kendal’s mother Lisa is the librarian at Lincoln High School, and because that area is so spacious and accommodates all the activity, it becomes the “makeover center” on the Saturday of the prom event. Beginning early in the morning, the library is transformed into a salon of sorts. They decorate the area in pink, turn on some music, move furniture around to set up stations where the beauty regimens are performed, and even provide refreshments and gift bags filled with little goodies for participants to take home with them.
Kendal noted that they typically have up to 15 volunteer students who help out. “We use whatever talents they have. Some are pretty gifted at doing hair; others have a steady hand and do nails; and others have a flair for makeup. So they all go to work doing what they do best and it works out great.”
Lisa added that word has travelled and they have had some girls come from other schools looking for special occasion wear … some from even outside Harrison County. “We don’t turn anyone away,” she added. “And we have had some inquiries too from girls who need a graduation dress or something appropriate for a job interview. It has been a very rewarding project.”
This year’s Homecoming dance as well as the Sweetheart Dance that was held this past weekend at Lincoln sent 25 more gowns out the door. Now, with the prom coming up in April, they are looking to replenish their stock. Donations of gowns, shoes, purses, jewelry, makeup, nail polish and hair products are being sought, and any contributions would be appreciated.
“Because this project has really been valuable to so many girls, we are anxious to have a number of selections on hand that they can choose from,” Kendal continued. “We need all sizes and colors so there is a variety of choices to fit any proportion and satisfy anyone’s taste. Some people who have heard about our project have also contributed monetarily so that we can purchase what we may not have in order to fill a need.”
Kendal noted that a few stores at the Meadowbrook Mall have in the past donated makeup and hair product samples to help out as well. “They supported our project and were very generous,” she said.
Kendal has spearheaded the Prom Princess Project at Lincoln High School throughout her high school career, but she will be graduating this year. She says she continues to gather underclassmen volunteers who will keep the project going in the years to come. And she, too, plans to stay involved with it even when she is off to college.
“I encourage other students to get involved and keep it growing,” she said. “It is a unique leadership experience, and those of us who have given our time to this project have gotten even more out of it than we put into it. It is always enjoyable, and we get to know other students that we might not otherwise have had the opportunity to know very well. We’ve all had such a good time being involved with it!”
Anyone interested in donating special occasion wear and/or accessories or making a financial contribution should contact Lincoln High School librarian Lisa DeMarco at 304-326-7403 during school hours.