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PHOTOS: USO, Sherri Hill Provide Free Prom Dresses to Fort Campbell Teens

Monday, April 02, 2012

Prom season can send even the most grounded teen or parent into a tizzy. Fortunately for girls, mothers and dads at Fort Campbell, Ky., that tizzy was a good thing last Sunday.

Approximately 200 girls got the opportunity to enjoy a free shopping spree to find that special prom gown, thanks to "Operation: That's My Dress," created by the USO and made possible with the generosity of international stylist and designer Sherri Hill.

Margaret Schwab, director of development for USO of Metropolitan New York and "Operation: That's My Dress" event organizer, said after one of her fashion seasons, Hill realized she had a lot of dresses in inventory, and contacted her friend and Vice President of Programs & Services for USO Metropolitan New York Ray Kennedy to see if the USO could do anything with them. The result was Hill donating over $500,000 worth of dresses to the USO and the USO devising an event that equaled the scope of Hill's donation.

Fort Campbell, Ky., home to the third largest military population in the country which has also seen the greatest number of deployments in the Army, was chosen as the site by the USO and an agenda was created, featuring a fashion show to highlight the dresses and an expo to help girls get everything they need for the prom, including a dress, make-up tips and hair style ideas.

"We are especially excited to play a small part in helping the teens of military families stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., enjoy their high school proms," Hill wrote before the April 1 event. "The families of enlisted military stationed at this base have made many sacrifices in recent years. Deployments and casualties have been especially high. It is our hope that the fun event planned by the USO brightens the lives of the teens and their families."

Also on hand were past Miss USA and Teen USA pageant contestants from the Miss Universe Organization, the USO show troupe The Liberty Bells and dozens of volunteers to ensure that each girl found a favorite gown. Additional sponsors that made the event possible included Miss Priss, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Maybelline, Eden Day Spa & Salon, Glitz Bridal & Formal Salon and U-Haul.


The new USO Fort Campbell was a perfect backdrop for the event as families had plenty of room to peruse the impressive dress selection.

"I was excited that I'd be able to find a dress and not have to go to Nashville," said Kayce Grimes, 18. "It was a good experience for these big, name brand dresses. ... There are so many people. Everyone wants these great dresses."


The Liberty Bells and some gown shoppers take a timeout from the festivities.

"I was really excited because I was stressing about trying to find a prom dress and I was like 'I'll probably not find one here' and then I did!," said Angel McDowell, 16. "It was really cool. You'd go and pay hundreds of dollars somewhere and you get them for free? It was overwhelming."


Another prom-goer takes a few moments to chat with the Liberty Bells. The success of the event might bode well for more events like this in the future.

"The USO has never received a donation like this before and done an event geared toward teenage daughters," Schwab said. "It's a perfect fit as it coincides with the USO's [current] Military Families campaign. We would like it to happen at other bases."


Who said the primping and pampering that comes with prom only needs to happen once, as the girls got to try out different styles for their big night. For Stephanie Nicholson, a mother with two daughters, Sierra and Morgan, attending the event, it couldn't have been more appreciated.

"I didn't believe it. I was amazed," she said. "It just came, honestly, as a Godsend. My daughters are both going to prom, my husband's military and we just didn't have the money to spend on dresses. And so just the night before I found out, a friend of ours from church called us and said 'This is in the paper; take the girls.' ... I think it's amazing. I'm flabbergasted."


Success, as the perfect gown is paired with its new owner.

"The USO affords many of us an opportunity to say 'Thank you' to those who do so much for our country," Hill wrote. "We've tried to include a wide variety of looks and colors so every girl can walk away with her 'dream gown.'


The hard work and care from volunteer beauty professionals like these women from Eden Day Spa & Salon in nearby Clarksville, Tenn., made the day even more special.

USO Fort Campbell Director Kari Burgess Brown summed up the event up in one word: "Amazing. I think that the feedback on [the Fort Campbell] Facebook [page] and people stopping by today to say 'Thank you' just really speak to how big the event was for the Fort Campbell community and how much they appreciate it. It's overwhelming in an amazing way.

"I'm so honored that we were the installation that was able to do it."


Beauty pageant contests from the Miss Universe Organization and the USO have a long history of teaming together to support military families and this event adds another highlight in that relationship. Pictured to the left, an employee from Miss Priss is flanked by Miss Nebraska Teen USA Sarah Summers and Miss Texas Teen USA Madison Lee.

* Visit USO Operation: That's My Dress Shutterfly page for more images from the event. 

 (Photos by Joan Evans. Produced by Christian Pelusi and Kathy Dorf) 


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