SAN ANTONIO - Erin Tiede, 17, will be dressed like a princess for her high school prom, thanks to the generosity of strangers and one mom on a mission.
"There were so many dresses, racks full of dresses, tables of dresses," she said. "We found the perfect one."
Erin, a junior at Judson Early College Academy, was among the students rifling through fancy, formal and fit-for-a-prom dresses that Ashley Johnson collected through her new nonprofit Project Prom Dress San Antonio.
Johnson started the project as a way to help girls and families with financial struggles still be able to have a pretty dress to go to prom.
"A lot of parents, maybe single parents or may have someone ill, or some girls are even homeless, so they just need that little assistance so they won't miss out on their prom," Johnson, a working mother of six, said.
By mid-January, Johnson had collected a couple dozen gently used dresses. Then, with the help of social media, word spread. Within weeks, donations of more than 200 gowns had poured in.
"I'm definitely surprised at the turnout, and I'm blessed, excited, overwhelmed," Johnson said.
Johnson selected girls from those who applied to receive a dress. She said she considered not only their needs, but their academic performance by asking to see report cards.
The Boys and Girls Club on the east side allowed the project space where the girls could check out the inventory and try on dresses.
"My mom was pretty excited, too, because we can't really afford to pay for a dress right now," said Juveraa Fatima, a student at Young Women's Leadership Academy.
It's not just dresses. The girls could also choose from dazzling costume jewelry that had been donated. Dry cleaning, hair and makeup services were being donated as well.
"They'll be good to go," Johnson said. "They just need the ticket."
Johnson, who recalled working to help her own single mother pay for a prom dress, said she doesn't want any girl to miss out on the opportunity simply because she can't afford a proper dress.
"The prom is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime event," she said. "You can't go back in time and redo it."
Now because of Johnson's efforts and the donations of many, Erin Tiede is looking forward to her big night. And, she's grateful.
"It was amazing to see other girls in there, too, who probably wouldn't have been able to go to prom without Ashley and what she did," she said. "It was really special."
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