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Cinderella Story of Hamilton County celebrates 13 years of turning prom fairy tales into reality– for free

WESTFIELD, Ind. -- Prom is considered a rite of passage for teens. However, these days, the average cost for a young lady to attend prom—dress and everything included—is nearly $1,000.

Each year it’s no wonder more and more students have to make the decision to forego prom because their families simply can’t afford it.

But for over a decade, one Hamilton County program has made it their mission to change that.

Their founders stopped by the CBS4 studio to chat with our Rachel Bogle and share their story.

Photo Credit: Cinderella Story of Hamilton County website

After hearing story after story of young ladies who couldn’t afford to go to prom, Julie Winbun, Deb Lewis and a group of Westfield moms got together and decided it was time to do something about it. So they started Cinderella Story of Hamilton County.

Their mission is simple:

“Any girl in the city should go to prom and have a dress and feel like a million bucks and we want to help make it happen,” said Julie WInbun, Co-Chair of Cinderella Story of Hamilton County.

Now in their 13th year, Cinderella Story has helped hundreds of girls go to their prom in a beautiful dress.

This year, they want to spread the love even more.

“We originally just did Westfield and then we thought, ‘Let’s think bigger, let’s expand it out throughout Hamilton County,” said Co-Chair, Deb Lewis. “And since then it’s gone throughout the whole state.”

On Saturday morning, young ladies—dubbed “Cinderellas”-- who have been nominated and chosen on a need basis will have first pick at the thousands of dresses, shoes and accessories to complete their prom look—all at no cost to them.

Photo Credit: Cinderella Story of Hamilton County website

 “I work with the area schools and counselors and they give me girls that are nominated to be Cinderellas,” explained Lewis. “Whether it’s financial need or just something they did that’s special so they can be nominated and come early in the morning and get first priority on the dresses.”

If you know someone who you think fits the bill, it’s not too late to nominate them for the Cinderella experience this year.

“If you know someone in need please tell your friends, a friend of a friend—whoever -- and have them contact us because if somebody needs a dress we want to make it happen,” Winbun said.

Among the multiple racks and thousands of dresses, ladies will find stunning gently used and even brand new dresses for all shapes, sizes and heights.

Photo credit: Rachel Bogle

“I’d like to thank Stephen’s Prom and Beyond because this year they are giving us brand new dresses for our Cinderellas so I will have some brand new really special dresses,” Lewis said.

If you want to help, they are always accepting donations of gently used gowns at one of their many drop-off locations or even at Monon Trail Elementary on the day of the event. They are reaching out to the public this year with a particular need for larger sizes.

“We’ve had people drop a dress during the event and they saw who got the dress and that’s always special,” said Lewis.

“Like your dress, Rachel,”  Winbun added. “It was special and that girl felt like a million bucks. It was a magical dress.”

Rachel donating a dress and meeting the young lady who chose it for her prom

And sometimes, the magic is in seeing everything come full circle.

“I just got an E-Mail from a mom this morning that said, ‘You helped my daughter in 2011. I have some donations and I want to volunteer and give back,” said Winbun.

This year’s event is happening Saturday, March 16th, at Monon Trail Elementary located at 19400 Tomlinson Road in Westfield. The Cinderellas will have their free private shopping experience that morning and then it will open to the public from 11:30am-4:30pm.

During that time, all dresses will be $25, with all proceeds going back to Cinderella Story for next year’s event when they’ll do it all again.

If you’d like to help out during the event, they are looking for seamstresses and other volunteers to help with set-up and clean-up.

For more information, check out the Cinderella Story of Hamilton County website by clicking here. To nominate someone you know to become a Cinderella and enjoy the free, private shopping experience E-Mail them at Cinderellastory46060@gmail.com.

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