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Belle of the Ball collects old prom dresses for students in need

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In her first year of high school, Aahkeilah Rogers was invited to the prom by her best friend. There was only one problem, she had no dress.

Honestly, I don't think I would be gone, said Rogers. I had no idea how to find a dress.

A student searches for a dress with her personal shopper at Belle of the Ball in 2019. Caring partners / Belle of the Ball

Enter Belle of the Ball. The event is an annual ball gown collection led by Caring Partners which collects, cleans and redistributes ball gowns, shoes and accessories to high school and senior citizens in need. For his junior ball in 2015, Rogers attended the event and was wearing a beautiful Cinderella dress.

Today, she volunteers with the program as a personal shopper. It is a dress, but also the connection you get with someone, she said. Whether it's your personal buyer, someone who helps you choose shoes, get your dress or jewelry, someone who changes your dress, it's all an experience.

Belle of the Ball will hold its 16th annual event, known as Boutique Day, at the Hynes Convention Center on April 4. Before the big day, the organizers are looking for lightly worn prom dresses that can be given at any Antons Cleaners, Enterprise Bank and Jordans Furniture store until March 30. This year, up to 1,200 students will participate in the event by recommendation only.

Belle du prom 2019 Caring partners / Belle of the Ball

Whether or not you can go to the ball can be a breaking point, according to Lawrence High School's senior advisor, Julia ODonnell. To have an opportunity like that Oh, I can go to the ball now. I can pay for my prom ticket and I don't have to worry about the dress, she said. The stories of some children are incredible. ODonnell coordinates the buses to transport his students to and from the day of the store.

Upon arrival, each student will be paired with a volunteer personal shopper. The goal is to find a dress, shoes, jewelry and a handbag, and walk on a red carpet before bringing the outfit home.

Laticia Tolentino and her twin sister have volunteered for the past 14 years and often work with students who may need a personalized fit or face a language barrier.

These young women, you know, have a hard time finding the dress that suits them, that works for them, that makes them happy, and then they come out and you feel like oh my god, that’s is the best day, said Tolentino. I walk away every year knowing that I have cried at least a few tears.

Did you go to your prom? Send your prom photo and name to [email protected] and we can present it in a future Boston.com story.

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