Prom Palooza 2013 – ‘This Was the Best Experience For Me!”

With the help of For The Seventh Generation, going to Prom become a reality.
– Deline Echols, A Place of Refuge

Most kids in our area don’t really have to worry about being able to go to Prom; sadly, though, that’s not the case for southeast Michigan teens in foster care. For them, Prom is just another expense that isn’t in the budget.  That’s why we held the first of what we hope will be an annual For The Seventh Generation Help Closet event: Prom Palooza. Thankfully, the community joined in — and together we made Prom possible for several southeast Michigan foster kids who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to go.

PromPaloosa was Deline Echols’ first experience with For The Seventh Generation. Deline, who works for A Place of Refuge, a Southfield organization that serves young people who are aging out of the foster care system, didn’t think she’d be able to find appropriate Prom clothing for a young man in her agency’s care. Prom

But thanks to Valente’s Men’s Formal Wear in Grosse Pointe, he wasn’t just able to dress well – he went to his prom in a custom-fitted tux.

Deline says the young man had a great time at Valente’s.

“This was his first time being fitted and wearing a tuxedo,” she tells us. “He felt like a king because this was something he had never experienced before. He really enjoyed the opportunity to have something that was tailored to his style and body. He says the staff were very polite when assisting him. When he received his tuxedo he had the biggest smile and could not wait to get dressed!”

Later, at his prom, “…he felt like he was on top of the world. This was his first big event all dressed up besides going to church. He really enjoyed himself; he danced and ate the night away!”

“Going to prom meant the world to him,” Deline says. “At first we were not sure if he would have the opportunity to even participate in Prom because funds were very limited. With the help of For The Seventh Generation, going to Prom become a reality.”

Young men weren’t the only area foster kids we were able to help get to Prom. One young woman, Danielle, says that going to our Help Closet and picking out her prom dress “…made me feel special … we could look at all the stuff and pick whatever we liked; they even let me get clothing to use for job interviews.”

Another young lady, Seaince, says, “I was stressed out about my prom dress and how I was going to pay for it.  This was the best experience for me! — I [had] a dress and it look[ed] great on me!!”

We couldn’t have done it without you – many, many thanks to our PromPalooza donors!

The Grosse Pointe Valente’s wasn’t alone in helping us make Prom come true for our area’s foster children. One donor alone, WBHK 98.7 KISS FM, provided 150 prom dresses! Sam Michael’s Menswear in Farmington Hills came through for a young man in need of a tux, and Cafana Cleaners in Detroit has donated sturdy plastic storage bags for our leftover prom dresses so they will be fresh for next year. Melissa Covell of Foster Care Navigators and Countrywood Florist in Romulus also stepped up to help our young people get to Prom.

And we can’t forget P.I.N.K. Detroit and Pretty Faces, which provided volunteers to help “our” young ladies get their hair and makeup Prom-ready!

Can You Help a Young Person in Foster Care? For The Seventh Generation Needs You!

Prom Palooza is over for this year, but our area’s foster children, foster families, and young people aging out of foster care still have needs: everything from orthodontic care to tickets to sporting events, and music lessons to mentors. In other words, all of the “extras” that help children and teenagers thrive.

If you have gently-used/new items to donate or are a professional with expertise you’d like to volunteer, please click here to register with us so we can match you/your donation with a foster child in need.

If you’d like to make a monetary donation, please click here.

All it takes is one gift, one child, one year – and you will have affected our community down through the Seventh Generation.

My “Barbie”

-Jasmine Charlton

Barbie FantasiesBarbies® are many girls’ first toys, and we think that they’re beautiful, smart, fearless, and perfect in almost every way. At a young age, girls get this notion of life that in order to have the Barbie house, car, success, and family we must look and be perfect – oh, yeah, and love the color pink.

But to me those requirements seemed flawed — not because I wanted it that way, but because my luck just didn’t catch well. Or so I thought.

I wasn’t cute. I’ll be the first to admit it. I was skinny, abused, and buck-toothed: a horrid combination. I’d often wonder if “Barbie” really existed, and if she went through struggles to obtain her perfect life and be idolized by girls worldwide. As the years passed, my thoughts about Barbie and her perfect life never lagged far behind.

But when I was fifteen, I received braces. Something I never imagined happening actually occurred! My friends who wore braces often complained about them, but I embraced the metal living in my mouth. My braces were only on for two years, but their effect would last a lifetime.

In college, I promised to be everything I never could be in high school. While growing up I was moved to several different foster homes, so extra-curricular activities and girlfriends weren’t common, but now with my smile and wittiness I decided I wouldn’t experience the same misfortune. But then something happened, something life-changing… I found my Barbie when I met my mentor LaDonna Young, one of my bosses at my job at Saginaw Valley State University.

Jasmine with her "Barbie," LaDonna Young

Jasmine with her “Barbie,” LaDonna Young

LaDonna hates that I call her that, but up until now, I never really explained how I gave her that title. To me Barbie is a role model — someone that you mirror, with small modifications, to create your own path. Just like the doll I had before I had braces, I told my Barbie – LaDonna — the secrets that I couldn’t imagine sharing with anyone else and she was there to listen, laugh, cry, and push me to succeed (no matter how hard the push needed to be). I also followed her advice, though I admit she sometimes had to give it repeatedly!

Now that I’ve graduated from college I want to be like my Barbie LaDonna; I want to mentor and help girls like me. I want to show them that Barbies aren’t imaginary, but live within each girl in her own special way. My smile made it possible to venture out and find my Barbie — the fearless, smart, and beautiful young woman I thought never existed. But then LaDonna helped me find my own Barbie…. the one who lives inside of me.

About Jasmine – and How You Can Help More Foster Children Go On To College

Jasmine Charlton was the first foster child to receive help from For The Seventh Generation. You can see her story here and read Dr. Maria Pinzon’s account of working with Jasmine here.

Last May, Jasmine Charlton graduated from college – an accomplishment shared by only three-four percent of foster children.

Would you like to help a metro Detroit-area foster child thrive to increase the chance that he or she will go to – and graduate from – college? Register to help a foster child through For the Seventh Generation today. Your help as a mentor – or your professional expertise as an orthodontist, music teacher, or other child-related expert – can make all the difference. Be a “Barbie” for a child today and help that child become a successful adult tomorrow!

Barbie Fantasies photo courtesy Barbie Fantasies via Flickr