By Arlene Edmonds

Special to The CS&T

With the country in a recession and graduation season just around the corner, many high school girls who are juniors and seniors need a helping hand to make prom day special.

Expenses involved in attending a prom quickly add up. A prom dress, accessories, hair and nail styling, limousine or car rental, flowers and other amenities could easily put a financially strapped family in the red. With unemployment rising and job security falling, some families are wondering whether to allow their 11th or 12th grade daughters to attend the prom at all.

Volunteer-run Fairy Godmothers has a solution. Throughout the year “Fairy Godmothers” like Lisa MaRie Heyward have been collecting new or almost new prom dresses along with earrings, necklaces, bracelets, hair accessories, evening purses and shoes. These will be sold at the Fairy Godmother Prom Fair 2009 at Cheltenham Square Mall, 2385 W. Cheltenham Ave. (west of Washington Lane) in Wyncote, and every Saturday in March from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. as well as Sunday, Mar. 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The new and slightly used prom gowns will be sold for only $5 each, according to Heyward. All the other accessory items will be sold for $1 or $2. Among the area retailers who have contributed new inventory to this year’s prom fair is David’s Bridal as well as a few outlet stories in the New York City area. Most of the prom fair items, however, are donated by inspaniduals.

Tents will be set up in the middle of Cheltenham Mall’s court. The gowns will be subspanided into six groupings ranging from sizes 0 to 26. Only a handful of young ladies are permitted in the tent at a time. Each person will have approximately 15 to 20 minutes to try on a gown as they are assisted by a personal shopper.

To ensure as many girls as possible have an opportunity to purchase a prom dress, there are strict guidelines. Each girl can only purchase one gown in her size. She must show a current valid high school identification card. A log kept of all who purchase a gown will prevent anyone getting back in line for a second round.

“We are still collecting prom gowns,” said Heyward. “We really need the larger sizes because we would like to go up to size 30. We usually run out of the larger sizes first. We don’t want to turn a girl away … because we don’t have her size. We also need evening bags … if anyone wants to donate I will arrange with them to either have it picked up or we could meet at a convenient location.

“We are really expecting to have a record turn out this year with the state the economy is in,” said Heyward, who became a Fairy Godmothers’ volunteer four years ago. “In past years we’ve had girls lining up outside our venue at 5 and 5:30 a.m. Last year 600 girls came out…. The Cheltenham Mall offered us [space this year]. We are very grateful to them, but we realize because it is in a very accessible location [it will] bring out even more girls.”

To make donations now to the Fairy Godmother Prom Fair 2009, contact Heyward at, call her at 215-658-5582 during business hours or call 267-226-6305 at other times. People can also drop items off at the prom fair tent at the mall during the event. For information visit

Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at