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Vanderhoof’s Fairy Godmother: Dressing graduates for their special day

Julie Manojlovic is the driving force behind the Cinderella Dreams Program
Cinderella Dreams Program helps graduating students find the perfect prom dress.(Submitted photo)

Julie Manojlovic is Vanderhoof’s very own Fairy Godmother as the driving force behind the Cinderella Dreams Program, where she works tirelessly to assist graduating students in finding the perfect prom dress.

The Cinderella Dreams Program was initiated in 2015 by Kia Bruvold and Carolyn Leigh. However, in May 2019, they announced their decision to step back from the program to focus on their families, work, and other volunteer endeavours.

“They were looking for somebody to take over the program and I thought it would be super fun and I had the time to do it as well as the space to store all the dresses that come along with this program,” she said.

Manojlovic took over the reins in 2021, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She and other volunteers, “fairy godmothers” as Manojlovic calls them, have since managed to distribute dresses to a quite a few students in need. Over time, the program has expanded, with more dresses being distributed each year.

All the dresses in the program are donated, previously worn, and cleaned at Suds N Duds Drycleaning & Laundry Services & Boutique in Vanderhoof.

Manojlovic personally hand washes some dresses, a labour-intensive task due to their size and volume.

Graduating students in School District 91 are eligible to be nominated for a dress, which they can obtain free of charge. This is particularly valuable as the cost of prom attire can quickly become exorbitant, considering expenses such as hair styling, nail treatments, and shoes.

“It’s wonderful just to help the graduates feel amazing and, and gorgeous on their super special day that they’ve worked so hard for,” she says.

Manojlovic’s dedication to the program extends beyond Vanderhoof, welcoming students from neighbouring areas like Fraser Lake and Fort St. James. She is moved by the stories shared by donors, who often reminisce about the joyous memories associated with the dresses they donate.

“People are always reaching out, some wanting to know where they can donate a dress….it [the dress has ] a joyful memory for them from when their child was graduating and they are super happy and excited that somebody else is going to get the same experience,”

The community spirit in Vanderhoof is evident through the overwhelming support for programs like Cinderella Dreams.

Manojlovic emphasizes the importance of ensuring every student can participate in their graduation festivities with confidence and pride, regardless of financial constraints.

“There are so many people that are so happy and willing to come forward and help others when they need it. And this particular program is definitely that because we don’t want any child to miss their graduation because they don’t have the proper attire to attend their graduation.”

Looking ahead, Manojlovic plans to collaborate with the Vanderhoof thrift shop to establish a dedicated boutique for the program.

This boutique will operate by appointment only, creating a more personalised experience for graduating students while ensuring the dresses remain accessible to those in need.

About the Author: Binny Paul

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