The Cinderella Affair will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the next two Saturdays, April 1 and 8.

Unlike the fairy tale princess its named after, the annual Cinderella Affair prom dress giveaway doesn’t require the waving of a magic wand to transform hundreds of Valley high school students.

What it does take, however, is  tireless volunteers and the donation of thousands of formal gowns to ensure each girl finds the look she feels most beautiful in — at no charge.

Saturday began this year’s three-day fairy tale. Hundreds of junior and senior high school girls and their families lined up overnight in hopes of finding the most glamorous gowns in a collection that spans styles and sizes. Hosted by the East Valley Women’s League, the yearly event has delivered 11,000 donated frocks to girls since 2002.

After presenting a valid school ID, participants are given the opportunity to try five dresses on in the hopes of finding the best look to dance the night away in. There are no family income limits or requirements that participants provide any proof of financial need. Any student may participate.

“It’s just amazing to be able to help these girls out,” said organizer Traci Estenson. “This year is amazing. There is an overwhelming sense of love and pride for our community which helped put this together.”

Estenson describes the experience as a “free Disneyland” where each girl is made to feel special. Each gets their own volunteer to guide them to racks of gowns. Matching shoes, jewelry and other accessories are provided at no cost as well.

“We just want them to feel like princesses for the day,” Estenson said. “We want them to know they’re going to look their best from head to toe.”

17-year-old Kari Farrow arrived at 411 N. McKemy Ave. in Chandler early Saturday morning in the hopes of finding a dress for her final prom. The Mesa High School senior said she participated in last year’s giveaway and was looking for something form-fitting, elegant and, most importantly, comfortable.

Farrow wound up selecting her fifth dress — a garnet floor-length gown — which she excitedly sauntered down the halls in as her younger sister, Sara, tried on her dresses. Coupled with a pair of silver sheer flats, Farrow said she was ready for a slow dance with her boyfriend.

“I feel very beautiful. It’s amazing to be complimented on something I’m wearing,” she said.

Her mother, Lynn Farrow, sat with other parents in a waiting room where they watched each girl enthusiastically present their frocks for opinions.

“The only thing I told her was that it needed to be fancier this year than what she did last year — and this definitely is,” Lynn Farrow said.

She said prom was the culmination of all of her girls’ achievements and the final big event before graduation. With tears in her eyes, she said she was excited to see her daughters participate in things she wasn’t able to growing up.

“I didn’t go to my prom, and this is exciting to me. It can be tiring but it’s worth it to see my daughters so happy,” she said. “They’re no longer my girls. They’re my women now.”

The Cinderella Affair will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the next two Saturdays, April 1 and 8.

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