Preparing for the Big Event: Cinderella’s Closet

Posted: May 13, 2009 11:54 AM
On Sunday, I had the privilege to be a part of Cinderella’s Closet, the first day of a very special and very big event for students with disabilities in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

The special event, A Cinderella Ball, is a night for middle and high school students with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. It’s hosted, free of charge, by The House Inc., a student leadership center that my wife and I have been tied to since its inception and is the continued realization of a dream that we and some very dear friends had for some time. Those friends have sacrificed everything to run the organization and see the lives of our students changed forever.

The Cinderella Ball (this is our fourth annual ball) is a “prom night” designed especially for these kids and will be held at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C., Saturday, May 30.

But it’s much more than a dance for the students—it’s a major event in their lives and the lives of their parents.

For our guests, the event actually starts weeks before the night of the Ball with Cinderella’s Closet.

Because simply offering free admission for the kids and their parents doesn’t cover the expenses of an event like this for these families—remember back to your high school days … prom dresses aren’t cheap—every young lady receives a free dress, accessories (necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc.) and shoes donated by individuals and businesses. The girls try on the dresses, and then our on-site tailors make sure everything fits just right. Every young man gets a free tie, handkerchief and dress socks donated from a high-end store. Professionals do the girls’ hair and makeup, and military volunteers shine the guys’ shoes.

Sunday was the first day of Cinderella’s Closet (we’ll continue this weekend), and Washington’s ABC Channel 7 WJLA covered Day 1 of the Closet (see the video at the end of this post).

The night of the Ball, student guests enter the Willard on a red carpet beneath a Marine sword arch. They are escorted to dinner tables by students who are enrolled in The House’s before- and after-school program. Our students also sit among our special guests to help with any needs during the meal and to make them feel welcome. (The pictures you see are from last year’s ball.)

The Ball kicks off with a catered banquet, which is followed by a presentation by ESPY Award Winner and best-selling author Kyle Maynard, who will present the fourth annual “No Excuses” award to one of our guests for their determination to overcome obstacles in their lives.

This year, we also are honored to be presenting American Idol winner Jordin Sparks for a mini-concert just for our kids and their families.

After Jordin’s special concert, we dance.

All of our guests, our House students and our volunteers move to the next hall, where the music is pounding. If you’ve never danced to “YMCA” or “Cotton-Eyed Joe” with a kid in a wheelchair, you’ve never really lived.

And if you haven’t witnessed the tears in the eyes of the parents of a disabled student when they see their child experience a night like this, … well ... I don’t know how to put it into words.

If you would like to be a part of the Cinderella Ball or just to get more information (including the Washington Post's coverage of last year's Ball), please click here.

The House is a 501(c)3 organization that conducts before- and after-school tutoring and mentoring, summer camp day programs, and weekend evening activities for underserved middle and high school students in the greater Washington, D.C., area.