High school prom can either be the most exciting moment of a young girl’s life or, if you don’t have the right dress, the perfect shoes or the dream date, one of the most angst-ridden.
The moment is so important that one Pennsylvania woman has made it her mission to make sure no girl has to skip her high school prom just because she has nothing to wear.
Her name is Joyce Jesko, but to the thousands of girls she’s dressed in sparkly gowns since 2001, she’s better known as “Fairy Godmother.” Jesko is the one-woman dynamo behind Fairy Godmothers Inc., a non-profit that hosts pop-up shops around the country each March where high school juniors and seniors can buy a prom dress for just $10.
“The prom is a big thing,” Jesko, a mother of one son who splits her time between Doylestown, Pa., and Carefree, Ariz., with her husband, Paul, told ABCNews.com.
“It’s your next stepping stone before you get into the real world and to be able to party and have fun and feel like a princess for a day. That’s why I do this,” she said.
Jesko got the idea after reading an article in 2000 about an Arizona woman who collected and donated lightly used evening gowns. Jesko got the woman’s phone number, took her to lunch and then took her idea back to Pennsylvania where she hosted the first prom dress event the next year.
Twelve years later, Fairy Godmothers Inc. has “sister branches” in seven states that every year open temporary storefronts for girls to come and shop.
All the girls need is their high school ID and then, thanks to volunteers recruited from colleges and the community, for a moment in time they are treated like princesses.
“Each girl gets a personal shopper who pulls dresses and stays with them until they find a match,” Jesko said. “We don’t allow moms in the back, just the girls, and then they can show their mom their favorite choice for the final say.”
Once the dress is picked, the girls go on to select shoes, handbags, makeup and hair accessories, all priced under $10. The gowns are mostly new, donated by David’s Bridal, which has its headquarters in Pennsylvania, and the makeup and other items are mostly purchased by Jesko and her team wholesale, to get the best deal.
For Jesko, every time she sees a girl’s face light up when just the right dress is found, she thinks back to her own high school prom in 1971 as a scholarship student at an all-girls Catholic high school in Philadelphia.
“It was a fight because I’m one of three other siblings and my father was the only one working at the time and my dad just said, ‘You know, we can’t afford for you to go to prom,’” she recalled. “And my mom said, ‘She’s going if we have to eat hot dogs for a month.’”
Jesko went to her prom in a $25 turquoise dress she, her mom and grandmother found, and says she now works full-time, with no pay helping Fairy Godmothers Inc. grow to make sure every high school girl’s dream is fulfilled.
“The girls are so happy. They’ll say to us, ‘Never in my dreams did I think I’d be able to go to senior prom,’” she said. “And the moms say, ‘My daughter has worked so hard and she’s a good student and we were trying to figure out how we could do this.’”
“They’re hugging us and they’re crying and they make us cry,” she said.
Click HERE for more information on Fairy Godmothers Inc., and how you can help.