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Special prom and a nod

Sun., May 6, 2012

A group of teens gathered Saturday to get gussied up for prom.

The room filled with the sound of chatter as they browsed racks of evening gowns. They got their nails done and professional stylists carefully applied makeup and curled, teased and pinned their hair into updos.

But this prom was different from most. It was a teen mom prom.

“I think this is the winner,” Jackie Carrick, 19, said of the strapless, butter-yellow, knee-length sundress she tried on. “Me being a mom, I need to think practically and this is one I could wear again.”

About 32 teens and young adults were treated to a day of pampering, fun and positive attention at The Salvation Army Spokane through the faith-based Catalyst Project’s Butterfly Affair. The day included three meals, team-building games, an inspirational speaker, glamour shots, and finally, the dance, to which each girl was allowed to invite a guest.

“The goal is to help the girls grow together,” said Erin Newberry, creative director with the Catalyst Project, which joined with a number of community partners and sponsors for the event. “We’re not expecting to change them overnight. This is one step in their journey toward wholeness.”

Most of the girls come from troubled backgrounds. Many lack good support systems and have had their self-esteem shattered by abusive or inattentive parents.

“Generally none of them have good support systems at home,” Newberry said. “It’s sad, but I’m surprised when they do.”

Organizers wanted to impart that they don’t have to fall into that cycle, that they are valued, they are not alone, and they can take command of their lives to make their stories positive ones. And, of course, they wanted the girls to have fun.

“They’re such good moms,” said Shauna Edwards, an area coordinator with YoungLives Spokane, which also serves teen moms. “They will do anything for their kids. We just want to keep that going. We want to break cycles.”

Looking at their reflections in the mirror, the young mothers’ faces lit up as the skirts of their dresses swished. They carefully picked out jewelry, clutches, shoes and shawls to match. The girls got to keep whatever dress and accessories they picked out.

“I feel like a princess,” said Adrienne Nomee, 20, who wore a royal-blue gown. “This day was just fantastic. Oh my gosh, so much fun. I can’t even describe it.”

They dined on a four-course meal of shrimp canapés with lemon-dill cream cheese, garlic parmesan breadsticks, salad, herb-roasted red potatoes and orange-Dijon chicken in a lavish banquet room.

Then it was off to the dance, where the floor was littered with blue, green and gold balloons, and peacock feathers and candles adorned the tables around the tinseled gym.

“Everyone should have the chance to go to the dance and feel beautiful,” said Jenny Weddle, executive director of the Catalyst Project. “We decided Spokane needed something like this, where girls could build their self-esteem and see their value.”

About 90 volunteers pitched in.

“It’s just a great way to give back to the community,” said Ali Marshall, who owns an event-planning business and volunteered her time Saturday. “These girls are really special.”

Last year the Butterfly Affair focused on homeless girls. Next year, foster girls will get treated.

“Things like this are fun,” Edwards said. “The girls just light up.”

And, she said, they deserve it.

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