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Every year fairy tales come true for 200 teenage girls with the help of the Northshore Fairy Godmother Project.

Attending prom is a common rite of passage for most girls in their senior year of high school. However, Ebbony Davis was afraid she would not have the experience. “I wasn’t able to afford the dress,” says Davis. And although she had a part-time job, it still wasn’t enough to cover the expense

Davis reached out to her guidance counselor explaining her situation. The counselor suggested applying to the Northshore Fairy Godmother Project. “When I was accepted, I was psyched and [couldn’t wait] to dive into the dresses.”

Founded 12 years ago as a General Electric of Lynn volunteer initiative, the project has blossomed into an organization providing formal dresses to the region’s disadvantaged teens. It has been a labor of love for several volunteers, including team leader Catherine Lyons.

The project receives donations of “gently worn” and new prom dresses, and as with high-end boutiques, girls make appointments to try on dresses, jewelry, and wraps for their special evening. The project also receives grants from companies, such as General Electric and Electric Insurance, to purchase extra jewelry and dresses.

“We’re an annual boutique and every girl that comes in is assigned a “Fairy Godmother” who stays with her while she’s trying on dresses,” Lyons says. “[Just about] everyone is able to find a dress, an evening bag, and jewelry.”

Lyons says getting the inventory is the easiest part of the job. More difficult is finding a place to store the 1,000 dresses and moving them to the event venue. The first year attendance was limited with about 35 girls showing up, but through word of mouth that number has quadrupled.

“There can be a stigma attached to getting a used dress,” says Lyons. “But after the first year the girls raved about the experience and the welcoming atmosphere—and of course, the amazing free dresses.”

Ziomara Escobar, a 17-year-old from Lynn, is one of the recipients of a Fairy Godmother dress. “I wasn’t planning to go,” she says. “I was pretty surprised—it was a cool experience. The people were actually interested in helping me out.” And like many teenage girls, Escobar exaggerates, saying she tried on “like 50,000 dresses” before finding the right one.

The Northshore Fairy Godmother Project encourages young women to take advantage of the program. Davis tells them, “Go, and if you don’t like anything at least you’ve looked.” She notes, “We don’t always [take advantage of] opportunities. When you have someone encouraging you, give it a try.”