Prom is a pain.

I remember my senior prom pretty well, it was only four years ago. I was working part time, my boyfriend wasn't working at all, neither of us really enjoyed dancing, but I was set on cramming in every high school memory possible.

I remember it was something like $100 for the tickets, $30 at least for dinner, $30 to get my hair done, and I'd probably spend around $200 on my outfit for the night.

Then I heard announcements at school for the Cinderella Affair. The announcements were vague, but somehow if you were a junior or senior and you showed up at this certain place, at a certain time, you could try on used prom dresses and take one home for cheap. I dragged a friend along to give it a try.

The second we walked in the door we were handed a ticket. When our time came a volunteer took us by the arm and ushered us into a room that had racks and racks of prom dresses. We were told to grab up to five dresses we wanted to try on. It was just like shopping, but the chances of ending up in the same dress as someone else was very low.

Once we had the dresses it didn't stop there. Then we went into a separate room where we were given makeup samples, jewelry, shoes if they had your size, and we were asked to try on the dresses one more time to see if the volunteers there could alter them in any way for us. If the dresses had a spot or two we were given a coupon for free dry cleaning. In the end it was all completely free.

I've been pleased to see the Cinderella Affair continue to pop up in the Valley every year around prom season to help girls in a similar situation to mine.

It's a major project for the East Valley Women's League, the Tempe Community Council, and the city of Tempe. The program began in 2002 to assist girls in making prom more affordable. Since its beginning, the program has given well over 5,000 dresses away. In the past four years they've given away 1,000 dresses each year, said Amy Grossklaus, a volunteer for the event.

"It's pretty amazing," Grossklaus said. "A lot of times without this boutique a lot of these girls would not be able to go to prom. The look of elation on their faces makes all the work and everything that goes into it so worth it."

Each year the event begins with a big call for dresses, which begins this year on Feb. 1. It's time to empty your closets and bring out the old dresses to help someone else.

"I think as people go through their closets they have kids who have been through high school or older kids who have been to dances and they have these beautiful dresses hanging in their closets, and we don't want those dresses to go to waste," Grossklaus said. "This is such a great cause. We need not only dresses but gently-used hand bags, shoes and wraps as well. We just want people to know this is a great cause and if they donate it'll go to a girl who is going to be so grateful and so thankful. Maybe because of their donation a girl can go to prom and have a beautiful dress she wouldn't have had otherwise."

Ahwatukee has tons of places accepting dresses for the event. They'll collect the dresses Feb. 1-24 and then all dresses will be given out during a boutique on Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31. For more information on drop-off locations and how to take part in the program, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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