EASTCHESTER, N.Y. Eight years ago, Noel Dallacco of Eastchester was a 22-year-old college student working her way through college as a wedding planner.
"I talked to so many bridesmaids who spent so much money on dresses they would never wear again," Dallacco said. "I thought maybe some students at my old high school could use them."
Dallacco reached out to school officials at her alma mater, Saunders High School in Yonkers, who told her they were happy to take some of the dresses for teenagers to wear to prom. But there was one student who Dallacco said she will never forget.
"The girl who stands out the most was living in a car with her mother who was not well, she said. The girl, who was an A student, could have moved to a shelter, but she did not want to leave her mom, so she stayed in the car with her. She never thought she would be able to go to prom, but she did."
The experience left an indelible impression on Dallacco.
"I was so happy for her, but I went home and cried my eyes out," Dallacco recalled. "I guess I just did not realize that so many kids are living in such difficult situations, which is not their fault."
Since then, Dallacco has become a veritable fairy godmother helping thousands go to prom each year.
"Last year was our biggest year, we collected 3,200 dresses and all of them were taken," she said of her organization now dubbed Operation Prom.
The prom dress initiative has spread past just helping Yonkers teenagers it has extended into a statewide group effort, with dress collections coming in from as far as Louisiana, Texas, and closer to home, in White Plains, Peekskill and Wappingers Falls.
"Nothing, nothing, nothing I ever planned for included doing this," Dallacco said. "But once I got started I realized I had to keep going because there are so many people in need."
Dallacco has won the support of many organizations and sponsors. On March 27, the group will hold a runway fashion show showcasing donated dresses at Westchester Manor in Hastings.
There is still time to donate a dress to the cause or to attend the fashion show, with the information available on the website .
"The kids come to shop starting on April 11 and through the week at several different locations in the county," Dallacco said. "We have lots of volunteers who come and give makeup and hair advice. They are great days for all of us."
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