BEST FRIENDS Melissa Michalowski (left) and Crystal Carr didnít get the chance to attend prom. The RCHS seniors were killed in a car accident in Custer Park in December 2008. But their memory lives on through the annual Melissaís Closet and Crystalís Jewelry Box event, where local teens can purchase trendy prom dresses for just $5. This yearís event is set for March 2 at Cardinal Transport in Coal City.
Marney Simon Staff writer
When young people die before their time, it is always tragic. But in some cases, family and friends are able to take away a valuable lesson: To remember, to be thankful, and to give back.
It's in memory of two Reed-Custer High School students taken too soon that a movement started to give to other girls what those two did not get to enjoy - a wonderful time at prom. The event, Melissa's Closet and Crystal's Jewelry Box, was started three years ago in honor of Melissa Michalowski and Crystal Carr. The teens were killed in a car accident in December 2008.
Organizer Laurie Becker, who worked with Melissa at the Braidwood Whitmore's Ace hardware location, was sad that the girls never got to enjoy their own senior prom. But Becker also noted how expensive prom can be, which can present an financial burden on teens and their families.
That thought prompted a simple idea - a prom dress drive. What started as a small collection of fashionable dresses at the hardware store turned into a full out event, featuring hundreds of dresses, lines out the door, and hair and make-up stylists on hand to help make prom-goers feel beautiful.
This year's event will move to Cardinal Transport on Reed Road in Coal City. In addition to dresses, jewelry and accessories, stylists from Paul Mitchell, The School in Bradley will help by giving hair and make-up tips and trials.
The event has grown over the past few years from a collection of about 120 dresses in its first year, to more than 300 collected last year.
"We dressed 134 girls last year," Becker said. "It's gotten a whole lot of interest. Cardinal Transport is actually going to build a stage for Paul Mitchell, so they're really excited about that."
The event gives local teens the opportunity to go to prom and look great minus the huge expense of dressing up. All dresses are $5, and anyone who donates a dress will receive a $5 coupon for Whitmore's, as well as a coupon for a free dress.
"Our overall purpose is just to give the girls affordable prom dresses," Becker noted. "These dresses, the cost is ridiculous. Our goal is to have every girl be able to go to prom."
Dresses for donation to the drive will be accepted from now until Feb. 28. Organizers are looking for long or short gowns, dated from 2007 to current. The event will also accept accessories, purses and jewelry.
Dresses must be dry cleaned and on hangers, and should be formal, fancy or bridesmaid dresses. Accessories should be stylish in good condition. In addition to donated dresses, there are some new dresses available. Becker said the drive received a donation of six cases of dresses from Peaches Prom Dresses just this week.
Distribution will be Saturday, March 2 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Cardinal Transport, 7180 E. Reed Road in Coal City. Also at the event will be a prom day door prize, donated by a relative of Melissa.
Dresses for donation can be dropped off at Whitmore Ace Hardware locations in Braidwood, Wilmington, Manteno, Manhattan; Quality Auto Body in Cola City, the Fossil Ridge Public Library District, Southern Exposure Hair and Tan in Braidwood, and the Free Press Newspapers in Wilmington or the Coal City office.
Becker said overall, it's just a wonderful way to honor Melissa and Crystal.
"[Melissa] was just the cutest kid in the world and so darn sweet," Becker said. "I just think making this her legacy, 134 kids got to go to prom because of her and Crystal. That they were able to do that for other girls is just the topping on the cake."
Information on the event can also be found on the official Facebook page, Melissa's Closet & Crystal's Jewelry Box.