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A fairy-tale experience: Glass Slipper project continues to provide free prom dresses

In Mitchell, every girl can have their very own fairy godmother. Thanks to the Glass Slipper project, area high school girls can feel like a princess during their prom -- or at least that's the goal of the ladies behind the Glass Slipper. The pro...

Wendy Royston, a Glass Slipper Bibbity-Bobbity-Board member, laughs during an interview on Tuesday at Wesleyan Church in Mitchell. This is the sixth year Royston has helped with the Glass Slipper program, where prom dresses and other accessories are offered to the community for free. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)
Wendy Royston, a Glass Slipper Bibbity-Bobbity-Board member, laughs during an interview on Tuesday at Wesleyan Church in Mitchell. This is the sixth year Royston has helped with the Glass Slipper program, where prom dresses and other accessories are offered to the community for free. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)

In Mitchell, every girl can have their very own fairy godmother.

Thanks to the Glass Slipper project, area high school girls can feel like a princess during their prom - or at least that’s the goal of the ladies behind the Glass Slipper.

The project is a two-day event that offers a variety of free, gently used prom dresses, shoes and jewelry for area high school girls. The sixth annual Glass Slipper takes place from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Mitchell Wesleyan Church, located at 601 N. Sanborn Blvd. In the past five years, the project has helped at least a total of 300 high school girls with prom.

During the event, girls are paired with a fairy godmother - also called a personal shopper - to help them choose a dress, find sizes and, arguably the most important part, accessorize, according to Bibbity-Bobbity-Board members Wendy Royston and Aimee Nebelsick.

“We kind of become that girl’s best friend for the day,” Royston said, adding that has become one of her favorite parts of the event.

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The event is hosted in the Wesleyan Church, and because of the extra space, allows for the board to set up one main shopping area housing all of the dresses organized by size, multiple dressing room and an entire room dedicated to accessories - dubbed the accessory room.

But while the main event focuses on helping area girls become Cinderella, the four-person board relies heavily on donations. It all started when Royston was trying to figure out what to do with her old prom and bridesmaid dresses. She took to Facebook to connect with people who may need the dresses. She talked with a few friends and community members who had the same idea in mind and, bibbity-bobbity-boo, the Glass Slipper project was formed.

Royston, along with the other creators, all had dresses sitting in their closet, and this seemed like the best way to get rid of them without throwing them out.

There was no magic involved, just a few devoted community members looking to help girls find their perfect dress and attend prom, for little to no cost. Going to a dress shop for dresses can get quite spendy, with many dresses costing easily more than $100, according to Nebelsick.

“And that’s just the dress,” Nebelsick said. “You’re not talking shoes, tanning, hair, makeup, accessories. It all adds up.”

And for some girls, picking up a free dress from the Glass Slipper was the only way they would be able to attend prom. Knowing that, Royston and Nebelsick agree it makes all their hours of work worth it.

The first year, Royston said an approximate 300 dresses were donated to the project, ranging from retro styles years ago to the newest in the fashion season. The first year went well, Royston said, with about 125 girls taking home their Cinderella dress that first event.

But this year, they’ve received more dresses than ever, with well over 500 dresses donated. And it could be even more than that, Royston said, as the dresses are stored and packed into a storage area in the basement of the Wesleyan church. A final count won’t be completed until Thursday night, when the board sets up for the event.

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And while Royston and Nebelsick hope they can help hundreds of girls have the perfect dress for prom, they know if they help one, they’ve done their job.

“We only need to help one person,” Royston said. “Because that can change someone’s outlook for their whole high school career and beyond. So the hope is that we can impact at least one person every year who will then be affected in a way she will help someone else in some way somewhere down the road.”

The event is a first-come, first-serve basis, so both Royston and Nebelsick are expecting a full house Friday. And they anticipate girls from not just Mitchell, but towns from an hour away will stop by Mitchell to get a dress, since that’s how it’s been in the past.

There’s no screening, Royston and Nebelsick said. Any girls interested in stopping by for dress, are welcome. There is a free-will donation, but it’s not required.

“We wouldn’t care if Ivanka Trump showed up, we’d send her home with a dress,” Royston said.

On top of free dresses and accessories, the Glass Slipper also provides prizes for the girls. Each year, several area businesses donate items such as hair, makeup and nail appointments to dress alterations and cleaning. And this continued support from the community is what really amazes both Nebelsick and Royston.

Some years are harder than others for the Glass Slipper, depending on weather and volunteers, Royston said. And anybody interested in donating a dress or volunteering their time for the Glass Slipper event, Royston and Nebelsick suggest contacting the group through their Facebook page, titled “The Glass Slipper.”

And because of the large amount of snowfall expected Thursday night and into Friday evening, the board members want those interested to stay tuned to their Facebook page for updates on the event.

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While the weather has affected the event before, putting a damper on the Cinderella-fun, Royston and Nebelsick are looking forward to the this weekend, as are other volunteers.

“I like how personal it gets,” Nebelsick said. “I don’t want to sit up front. I don’t want to help sign girls in. I want to be down there with the girls. I want to help find that dress. That’s the best part. And knowing they appreciate it.”

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