White lights twinkle in the atrium of the CityPlex Towers in Tulsa, Okla., casting a faint glow on Tiffany Grant’s pink satin formal as she glides across the dance floor with her date. Water cascades from a nearby fountain and a slow country ballad pours through the speakers. The girl from nearby Sperry, Okla., (pop. 981) is momentarily swept away by all the pomp and pageantry. But when a smiling Lauren Bradshaw dances by in a peach dress, the significance of the evening crystallizes for Grant, 18.
“When you see a moment like that, it makes everything worth the effort,” says the founder of Prom Wishes Inc., which provides prom dresses and tuxedos to teenagers who can’t afford them. “It’s an amazing feeling to see someone have so much fun and know that you helped make the moment special for them.”
Last year’s prom night was particularly meaningful for Grant, a graduating senior who started Prom Wishes in 2002 as a 4-H project. She began with a few hand-me-down gowns and gave them to 19 girls the first year. Since then, nearly 800 girls and a handful of boys from across Oklahoma have received dresses and tuxedos from the organization.
“This is my passion,” Grant says. “I just got hooked from the very beginning. Nobody deserves to stay home from prom because they can’t afford to go.”
Bradshaw is thankful for the project that outfitted her with formal gowns for her junior and senior years. There would have been no proms for the 2006 Sperry High School graduate without Grant’s help.
“There’s no way I could have afforded to go,” Bradshaw says. “I would’ve felt like I missed a big part of my high school years. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to go.”
Prom Wishes does more than provide the dress, however. Like all the other teens, Bradshaw also received jewelry, a matching purse, corsage and even a boutonniere for her date, plus a $25 gasoline card and gift certificates for a manicure and hairstyle. Individuals donate the dresses and tuxedos while local and area businesses contribute everything else. The formal attire and accessories are stored in a Sunday school classroom at the First Baptist Church of Sperry, where prom-bound teenagers can go to pick out their dream outfits.
The stories of people helped are typically poignant. Grant remembers outfitting a girl whose mother died a few weeks prior to prom and her father was laid off from work.
“The dad didn’t know what it entailed to get a girl to prom,” Grant says. “He had tears in his eyes after we helped his daughter. If it hadn’t been for us, his daughter would have stayed home from prom. He was so grateful for everything.”
Fortunately, the legacy of kindness will continue while Grant attends college at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. After graduating from high school, she handed over the reins to Jamie Weatherman, a seventh-grader and fellow 4-H member who previously volunteered for the organization. Weatherman hopes to double the number of girls served.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill, but I think this is probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” Weatherman says. “Tiffany has shown me that one person can make a difference if they just try.”
Visit www.prom-wishes-inc.org for more information.