VIDEO: Charity changing lives with free formal dresses
HUNDREDS of Ipswich Cinderellas and Cinderfellas will go to the ball.
Tucked away high above the main street of Ipswich is a refuge, lined with sparking 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 God Mother 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 at 153 Brisbane Street Ipswich (above Choices Flooring) which 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 further information.
How Fairy God Mother works
The Fairy Godmother Project is all about gifting confidence and self worth to young people, via the donation of a formal dress or suit and accessories.
By donating to the cause you're literally granting a beautiful Cinderella (or Cinderfella) the opportunity to fulfil a dream - you become his or her fairy godmother.
The dresses, suits and accessories are provided free of charge to anyone in need, anyone struggling to afford their formal. If the family can afford a donation, that's certainly appreciated, but it's not a requirement. It's a system based on honesty, on integrity. If you don't need the help, please don't accept it. Note we will request proof of school ID so we can be sure that only year 12 students from the local Ipswich area are being supported.
And all we ask is that one day these beautiful young people pay the gesture forward, either by donating their dress or suit back to The Fairy Godmother Project, or by donating down the track when they're financially able to help. We also ask that our young men and women send a photo in of their formal, so all the generous souls who donate to The Fairy Godmother Project can see the joy that they have gifted on. It's such a beautiful thing.
If you'd like to donate a dress, shoes, handbags, accessories or a suit, please message us via our Facebook page or drop your donation to Ipswich Dry Cleaners in Brisbane Street - our major local drop off location.
If you'd like to be the recipient of a dress or suit, please message us so we can arrange a time for a beautiful dress fitting for you, in our soon-to-be-revealed central Ipswich shop, the most beautiful experience a young Cinderella or Cindefella could ask for!
If you have a dress or suit that needs dry cleaning, either before you donate it (for Fairy Godmothers) or after you wear it (for Cinderellas and Cinderfellas) please drop it at Ipswich Dry Cleaners and mention that you're a part of this project - Ben and Libby will dry clean it for a small fee of $33 (less than half the usual cost).
Thank you so much for your support, and for helping fairy tales to come true for so many worthy local teenagers who could do with a helping hand.