A number of high school-aged foster kids were in for a surprise Saturday night, March 2, when they were treated to a night of pampering and fun with the help of a host of local businesses and civic groups, including the Tri-City Corvette Club of Port Neches.
After eight years worth of donations, the Southeast Texas community truly came together for a special prom night for local high school juniors and seniors in the foster care system.
CPS spokeswoman Shari Pulliam has organized the event since its inception and said, although the community always donated dresses, shoes, jewelry and other prom-like treasures, it wasn’t always enough to get shy foster kids to break out of their shells.
“After I started doing this a few years, I realized that sometimes even though we provided them with everything they needed, they still weren’t going to their own high school prom for various reasons,” she said. “If they’re not going to their prom, I wanted to give them a prom-like event that they can have a memory of.”
It seems Pulliam achieved her goal.
Some 20 young ladies began their prom with a full-day makeover at the Courtyard Cafe and Bakery in Groves. Local beauticians descended on the girls in droves, pampering and making the girls feel right at home, Pulliam said.
Some of the girls were taken aback by how generous the community has been over the years, especially the residents of Orange County, who donated many of at least 500 formal gowns the girls could choose from.
“I think it was real nice for CPS to think of us and help us out with prom,” said one unnamed girl, adding it also was a good opportunity for her to make new friends.
But what would a Cinderella story be without Cinderella’s prince?
At least 18 young men — mostly high school juniors and seniors in the foster care system — were waiting in the wings, beginning their day with a free lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, a shave and a haircut at SportClips and then a fitting for a dress shirt, tie and vest at Al’s Formal Wear.
But the Southeast Texas community had more in store for the group of youngsters.
The young men were picked up by more than 24 Corvettes — both classic and newer models — of the Tri-City Corvette Club of Port Neches.
Admiring the line of Corvettes, each boy was ecstatic.
“We had about 18 boys that needed a car and we had about 24 cars that came out, so the boys were kind of able to pick the car they wanted,” said Andrea Johnson of the Tri-City Corvette Club. “They really enjoyed it.”
From there, it was time to meet the girls.
With a police escort cruising them through red lights in a convoy of style and speed, each young man had a prom to remember.
“The young men said they had never felt so special in their lives,” Pulliam said. “They couldn’t wait to arrive at the prom in style.”
Without the help of volunteers and local businesses, Pulliam said the program wouldn’t have been as big this year. She was sure to give credit where credit is due.
“The Courtyard in Groves was the venue where volunteers from Valero, The Jr. League of Beaumont, Mary Kay consultants, SETX Career Institute of Silsbee, Touch Stone Jewelry Consultants, The Service League of Port Arthur, The Quota Club, CASA, students from PN-G High School and many other volunteers and community groups partnered with CPS made this event possible,” she said in a statement. “Tons of gowns were donated by the citizens of Orange County and they were beautiful! The Jefferson County Child Welfare Board underwrote the cost of everything else with help from other various child welfare boards from around the region including Orange County.”
In a world where children are abandoned or neglected on a regular basis, Pulliam said Saturday’s event was designed to make kids feel like they have a home.
“That was the whole point of the event,” she said. “To make them feel just like every other teenager.”
She said it’s just as important for foster kids to have a peer group they can relate to.
“It’s important to be around their peers and other children who’re in the same situation they are,” she said.
“We have a very generous community here in Southeast Texas. I can’t thank them enough for all they did. This night will live in these kids’ memories forever,” Pulliam said. “There were some friendship connections made. There might even be a few crushes that night.”