Of all the financial needs in Trisha Ball’s family, her prom dress was pretty low on the list of priorities.
With an absent dad, a mom recovering from surgery and four siblings at home, the 17-year-old East High School senior is the only employed member of the household and uses her income from Steak n’ Shake to help pay the bills.
But Tuesday night, Trisha and 49 other Akron Public Schools students got to live a Cinderella fantasy, treated to dresses, shoes, makeup and accessories, courtesy of the LeBron James Family Foundation.
The event, the first I PROMISE Makeover, was hosted by Savannah Brinson, James’ fiance and the girl that the NBA Miami Heat star took to his senior prom.
Brinson, an Akron native who lives with James in Miami, held a similar event for girls in Miami and then flew to Akron for a repeat affair.
Trisha couldn’t believe she was among those invited.
“It would probably have cost me a whole week’s paycheck” to get to the May 18 dance, she said.
Ellet High School counselor Diane Mullen said many of the girls were emotional after being chosen.
“When we told them, they just cried. Some of them just sobbed,” Mullen said. “Some of the girls said they weren’t even going to go to the prom because they couldn’t afford it.”
That was the case for Mackenzie Brunswick, who is graduating from Akron Early College.
“It’s hard to afford anything,” she said. “Most dresses, even a short one, would cost $50 or $60 dollars,” she said, at which point her classmate Emily Walker piped in, “$200 at least!”
Brinson said she remembered having friends who didn’t go to prom when she was in school and “I couldn’t do anything for them then. Now I’m just glad I can do something for these girls...Once you start high school as a freshman, it’s one of the things you start looking forward to.”
East High counselor Courtney Jones-Hunter said of the five girls she picked to attend the event, two are being raised by grandparents and another is struggling as a single mom herself.
“We picked the kind of ladies who work hard at school and they’re the kind of ladies who wouldn’t go [to the prom] without this because they wouldn’t want to put the hardship on their families,” Jones-Hunter said. “But they’re really all girls who deserve this.”
Fitting rooms were set up at a Fairlawn office site where the girls could try on long dresses in every color of the rainbow.
Before the fitting, Brinson told the girls about her own prom, and how she cried because her hair didn’t come out right. In the end, the evening turned out perfect surrounded by her date, her friends and memories that would last a lifetime.
The lesson, she said, is “don’t stress.”
The same message was reiterated by Angela Simmons, reality TV star and editor of the youth-inspired magazine Angela’s Rundown, who told the girls not to keep lack of a date from making the event a milestone in their lives.
“Taking a date is old school,” she said. “You can make more memories by hanging with your friends.”
Donations for the event came from Pink Door Nail & Facial Spa of Akron, Demetrios Bride, Ginger + Liz, Yes to Carrots Color Balm, Sonia Kashuk Makeup, Carol’s Daughter and Steve Madden.
In addition to the prom dresses and accessories, the women received special commemorative pink I PROMISE bands. Modeled after the signature bracelets worn by LeBron James, the wristbands symbolize a personal commitment to creating positive change.
Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said the makeover is an extension of the program that began with the Wheels for Education program for third-graders.
“Savannah had this awesome idea... so it fit right in,” she said. “Promises can be made by kids at all levels.”