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USO of Metropolitan Washington Hosts Project Cinderella for Military Women

Monday, April 08, 2013

By Sarah Camille Hipp 

Military women are experts at serving others, but all too often they forget to take care of themselves.

“Our military women deserve the best,” Queen Waddell told a room of 120 women, including military mothers, active-duty service women and young women who grew up in a military family.

It was with this thought in mind that Waddell of the USO of Metropolitan Washington (USO-Metro) conceived Project Cinderella three years ago.

Now an annual event at Fort Meade, Md., Project Cinderella gives military women the opportunity to have a day of luxury. The event includes makeovers by Paul Mitchell®, massages and workshops on military etiquette and dressing for one’s body type. But the most anticipated part of the day is picking out a gown, handbag, jewelry and a pair of shoes to take home.

“This is very different for me,” said Nolena Ard, a self-described tomboy and high school senior.

Before Nolena’s mom Celia left for a yearlong deployment, she encouraged her daughter to attend Project Cinderella as a way to prepare for her prom in May.

Wearing a sparkly red dress as stylists curled her hair, Nolena, 17, explained that the event featured several firsts for her. It was the first time she had worn heels, the first time she had her makeup done and the first time she had her hair professionally styled.

In addition to the full makeover, Waddell set up a surprise: the whole Ard family was there to see Nolena in her new, prom-ready appearance. When Nolena walked out of the back room, her dad and brother were standing there to surprise her. Then she realized her mom was also there via Skype.

“You look beautiful,” Celia told Nolena. “I wish I could be there with you.”

“I wish I could be with you, too,” Nolena replied.

At the end of the day, Queen asked Nolena how she felt.

With a big smile, Nolena’s response was full of joy.

“I feel like a princess!” she exclaimed.

Since the first Project Cinderella event, the nonprofit organization Fashion Delivers has donated hundreds of dresses and accessories annually for military moms and young women like Nolena. This year, Fashion Delivers donated $263,000 worth of designer dresses, shoes, makeup and jewelry.

“Our goal is for everyone to walk away with a smile,” said Gail Garramone, Executive Director of Fashion Delivers. “We want to celebrate the military women who do so much for us,” Garramone said.  “And it’s so much fun for everyone.”

* * *

Photo captions: Above, high school senior Nolena Ard gets her hair ready for prom at the third annual Project Cinderella event at Fort Meade. Below, Audrey Rothstein, wife of Fort Meade’s installation garrison commander Col. Ed Rothstein plays with the girls at the Shabby Chic Princess Tea Party. This special daylong event was available for young daughters of military women participating in Project Cinderella. (Photos courtesy of USO-Metro.)  

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