Who wants to go to the ball?

The Queensland Times - - NEWS - Emma Clarke emma.clarke@qt.com.au

HUN­DREDS of Ip­swich Cin­derel­las and Cin­der­fel­las will soon go to the ball.

Tucked away high above the main street of Ip­swich is a refuge lined with sparkling ball gowns, glam­orous for­mal dresses and swanky suits for high school stu­dents who would other­wise be un­able to af­ford to at­tend their night of nights.

The Fairy God­mother Project makes it all hap­pen for free.

It started seven years ago when founder Sam Har­ri­son was still pay­ing off her daugh­ter’s $1000 school for­mal dress a year af­ter the big event.

She started col­lect­ing gowns and this month moved into an old for­mal wear shop on Brisbane St with hun­dreds of out­fits ready for school for­mal sea­son. Stu­dents need to flash their school ID and they can pick an en­tire out­fit, from top to bot­tom, at no cost.

“The Fairy God­mother Project was cre­ated be­cause of my own ex­pe­ri­ences as a sin­gle mum strug­gling to pay for my beau­ti­ful daugh­ter’s for­mal dress. It was such a bur­den, it took me 12 months to pay it off. I am not re­sent­ful, but I wish there was help avail­able,” Ms Har­ri­son said.

“The re­al­ity is that many young men and women sim­ply can­not af­ford to at­tend their for­mal. For a teenager faced with the prospect of hav­ing to ad­mit that they don’t have the money to buy a dress or a suit, this can be com­pletely hu­mil­i­at­ing and de­flat­ing. It re­moves the bright, shiny light at the end of the tun­nel.

“Some of them feel like that without this goal, there’s no rea­son to stay at school, so they drop out.

“So many women and men have wardrobes filled with dresses and suits they don’t wear or need. Wouldn’t it be bet­ter to put these frocks and suits to good use? To use them to ful­fil dreams and gift beau­ti­ful young peo­ple with a feel­ing of pur­pose, of con­fi­dence, and of self worth? We can help so many dreams to come true.”

It was an ini­tia­tive that took the eye of Hearts and Minds Foun­da­tion di­rec­tor Greg Wal­lace who runs the char­ity to sup­port chil­dren in ed­u­ca­tion.

It aims to pro­vide a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties, op­por­tu­ni­ties and dreams for ev­ery child, re­gard­less of back­ground or fi­nan­cial sta­tus, through ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, a sce­nario made pos­si­ble with a glam­orous dress and a rea­son to stick out the school year.

“In Ip­swich more than half of our young peo­ple do not fin­ish high school and this is just not good enough,” he said.

“We have to do what we can to keep our kids in school. Be­ing able to turn up in a gor­geous gown or dap­per suit to their for­mal also pos­i­tively con­trib­utes to their self-con­fi­dence. It’s a win-win on so many fronts.

“I was hon­oured to have been at the shop to see our first beau­ti­ful young lady of­fi­cially fit­ted. It was all the thanks we need for do­ing what we do.

“The look on her face, the ex­cite­ment, the grat­i­tude, that feel­ing of worth, I wish we could bot­tle that for all young men and women.”

While the shop has some 500 plus dresses and suits, plus ac­ces­sories, do­na­tions of all sizes and styles are al­ways needed. Do­na­tions of time from make-up artists and hair stylists, as well as car hire com­pa­nies, are also ap­pre­ci­ated.

Cur­rent hours are Thurs­day and Fri­day from 3pm to 8pm, and on Satur­day from 12pm. If these times do not work, ap­point­ments can be ar­ranged.

The Fairy God­mother Project shop space is at 153 Brisbane Street Ip­swich (above Choices Floor­ing) and has been do­nated by Steve and Jaye Mal­let from Choices Floor­ing by Mal­lets.

“Ben and Libby Rawl­ings from Ip­swich Dry Clean­ers have also shown in­cred­i­ble sup­port of the ini­tia­tive,’ Ms Har­ri­son said. Do­na­tions of suits, gowns and ac­ces­sories can be made to Ip­swich Dry Clean­ers, 255 Brisbane St, Ip­swich.

Visit www.face­book.com/ fairy­god­moth­er­pro­ject for more in­for­ma­tion.

PHOTO: DAVID NIELSEN

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