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Kerri Hill stands amid a colorful array of more than 100 donated prom dresses at her Cross Lanes home. They are part of an effort to help area teens afford prom.
"Prom on the Boulevard"WHEN: Starts 9:30 p.m. and goes lateWHERE: Boulevard Tavern, 806 Kanawha Blvd.
PERFORMERS: Co-hosted by Casi Null and Tuesday Taylor, with music and spoken word by Marium Bria, Sierra Ferrell, Crystal Goodwoman, Felicia Chase, Talented and other performers and artists.ADMISSION: Cash donations or prom supplies welcomeINFO: Contact 304-859-4130 or visit the Dream Makers page on Facebook.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Let's first be clear about the name of tonight's "Prom on the Boulevard" event, which starts at 9:30 p.m. at Boulevard Tavern at 806 Kanawha Blvd.It's not a prom, but a sort of big musical, poetic, spoken-word fundraiser intended to raise funds and attract donated prom dresses and accessories, so as to send area teenagers to proms they otherwise could not afford to attend."I throw charities for things I think need to be done," said Tuesday Taylor, who is working along with the group Dream Makers to produce the event.Cash donations at the door are welcome, but just as happily accepted are donations of prom dresses, costume jewelry, strapless bras and what Taylor describes as "lightly worn dress shoes."Taylor's personal passion for the event is to help low-income, at-risk and disadvantaged teen girls have a chance to make their own splash at their school prom."West Virginians need to take care of West Virginians. I have girls that need help. Some of them just need a dress; another low-income girl needs jewelry and shoes. But all of them come from some type of situation."Taylor has teamed up on "Prom on the Boulevard" with Dream Makers, a nonprofit group put together by Kerri Hill and Tina Osborne. The Dream Makers Facebook page describes the group's mission as making it possible for low-income girls to have the prom they always dreamed about:"We will supply them with their dress, shoes, hair, nails, makeup, portraits, flowers, and even a limo to the prom if possible! We are dedicated to Making Dreams Come True One Girl at a Time!"
Formed earlier this month just in time for prom season, Dream Makers now has a quite respectable and riotously colorful array of donated dresses, which for the moment are spread on nearly every sofa, chair and bed in Kerri Hill's Cross Lanes home.Her 11-year-old daughter thinks it's dress-up-time, said Hill, standing in a house swimming in more than 100 dresses. Her 12-year-old son is not quite so enthused."We've already dressed 11 girls to date and the number keeps growing," she said.Dresses have already been fitted for young women from high schools that include Nitro, South Charleston, Capital High, Herbert Hoover, Poca and St. Albans, with more schools to come."We have some schools donating prom tickets," she added.Some area businesses have stepped in as well, such as The House of Dimitri in St. Albans, which has donated hair styling and makeup for the girls.
Dream Makers gathers references from school counselors, preachers and word-of-mouth and tries not to turn anyone away, Hill said. "We sit down and talk to girls and their families and ask them about themselves and what makes them think they should be picked. We just help kids in general."There is no income level requirement, just that "they are in need," she said. After all, the cost of a modern prom can be steep and often area girls and their families are tapped out after just the dress. Dream Makers can step in and help with the many other costs of prom.One thing is for sure -- some of the Dream Maker girls will be going to prom in a donated gown they may otherwise never have been able to afford."Some of these dresses are $700 to $800 -- we just had one donated today that cost $1,100. So you can imagine the cost," Hill said.Dream Makers also aims to help teenage boys, she said. "We've already had boys referred to us from school counselors -- four boys we're trying to get tuxedo rentals donated."Tonight's event, co-hosted by Taylor and Casi Null, features music by Null, Marium Bria, Sierra Ferrell and others, along with spoken word performances by Crystal Goodwoman, Felicia Chase and others, as well as original works by area artists.Taylor -- who will perform spoken word pieces under her "Tuesday Night" stage name -- said a few of the girls heading to prom because of the event come from dysfunctional homes where they may have witnessed domestic violence."It just doesn't hurt the wife, it hurts the daughters," she said. "They're willing to take more hardship in a relationship because of what they've seen."Heading out to prom, dolled up and confident, is a small but significant step toward restoring a little beauty and confidence to their lives, she said. "Girls need self-esteem. We want to be viewed as beautiful and feel good about ourselves, inside and out."Reach Douglas Imbrogno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-3017.