Prom is a night to remember for high school seniors. But it costs money – sometimes lots of money. And with the harsh economic times, it’s hard to find space in family budgets for the corsages, dresses, makeup, hair, shoes and other expenses.

To address the need, the Kiwanis Key Club at Proviso Math and Science Academy started their first annual Cinderella Project this year for seniors who could use a little help getting glammed-up for the big night. Kiwanis members and other volunteers, starting in March, collected party dresses until they amassed a collection of almost 200 gowns.

With the help of PMSA counselor Charlotte Grady, 16 PMSA senior girls who chose to participate went to the Community Center and, while an iPod blasted, selected from piles of tulle, ribbons, satin straps and lace. Then they tried them on, and local seamstresses Janet Paulin and Mary Hogan fit them and then went to work on alterations.

Paulin, who attended what was then the Modern School of Fashion & Design in Boston and is a professional custom seamstress, was able to adjust each dress to fit.

Some of the girls were initially shy, said volunteer Mary Win Connor. “I know times are tough; one mother hugged me before she left.”

But she told them, “Someday when you’re rich and famous, you’re going to donate your clothes to [the Cinderella Project].”

Bakoll Cleaners in Constitution Court professionally cleaned all the gowns.

On Friday, before the prom, the girls trooped to Team Blonde and Effigy Salon in Oak Park to get rigged out with up-dos, half-dos, curls and straightening. Then it was back to the community center, where Mary Kay cosmeticians Erika Goodman Osborn and Marete Steger applied the eyeliner, primer, foundation, blush, gloss and powder. Meanwhile, the girls and their companions snacked on turkey sandwiches for lunch.

The PMSA prom started with dinner, followed by dancing at 9 p.m. The girls were excited as they were pampered and primped and spoke of plans for photos by the lake, hanging out with friends and having fun. It was a chance many of them didn’t think they’d have.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...