Hundreds of girls received royal treatment Saturday in preparation for a big school dance.
Princess Project Silicon Valley donated prom dresses to girls who otherwise might not have been able to afford a fancy gown.
More than 3,000 dresses were donated this year. More than half are brand new thanks to partnerships with local dress shops.
An estimated 1,600 teens will receive a dress the year — the most in the chapter’s 12-year history.
“We really strive to make it all about the teens and create a very positive environment that makes them feel very beautiful and confident in their own skin,” said Starr Rey, president of Princess Project Silicon Valley.
Saturday was day one of a four-day giveaway. Dresses will be donated on March 19, 25 and 26 at a pop-up shop in Mountain View.
Each girl receives her own personal shopper — a volunteer — who helps her search among thousands of dresses. Teens can leave not only with a dress, but also shoes, jewelry and other accessories.
Princess Project partners with Peninsula, South Bay and East Bay schools to identify students who could benefit financially from a free gown.
Hayward High School junior Mya Fuentes said she is more excited about prom now that she is sure she can wear a dress of her own.
“I would have gotten a hand-me-down from one of my cousins and that’s not really what I would wear. It’s what they would wear,” Fuentes said. "So it was just really nice.”
Some of the teens who will receive free dresses this year are victims of the San Jose floods. Their families are among those who lost everything.
“One girl wrote in to us and said, 'My budget for prom was $20 and I’m sitting around a table hearing my fellow classmates talking about $200 and $300 budgets and I don’t feel worthy of going to prom,’” Rey said.
Princess Project Silicon Valley’s total operating budget is roughly $10,000. While a majority of the dresses are donated, the organization will purchase dresses when inventory in a certain size or color is low. Storage costs are also included in the budget as hundreds of dresses are put away until the next prom season.
Visit the organization’s website to help a girl find a dress, to donate or to volunteer.