Watching true beauty happen at the “Arizona Princess Program”

If you are a girl (and I’m assuming some of you are), you probably have experienced those glorious moments in your life where you get dressed up, look your best, and actually feel… dare I say it?…. pretty.

I’m not sure if we always realize the significance of those “pretty” moments, until we don’t have any for awhile… especially when it’s been a LONG while!

I (Breanna) recently got to spend time with a group of girls that have quite possibly never, ever had a “pretty moment” before.

These girls are all foster children between the ages of 12-15 and some of them have never even worn a dress before.

(I love this one of a girl in her fancy dress getting ready to trade in her Nike’s for a pair of heels).

I met this bunch at a camp called Teen Reach Adventure Camp or TRAC (sponsored by the amazing group Hope & a Future). Scottie and I were headed up there to take pictures for their special event called The Princess Program.

The goal of the Princess Program is to help these girls feel beautiful both inside and out.

The Princess Program happens on a special night of camp when the girls get all dolled up just like they would for prom (which most of these girls will never get to go to) …

…then they head over to eat a fancy meal prepared just for them…

…followed by a night of carefree dancing and fun (definitely not the norm for any of these girls).

(Aside from volunteers, we can’t legally show the faces of any of the girls involved.  It was quite a challenge to tell the story without using faces!).

Dolce Salon and Spa collects used prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses at various points throughout the year to save up quite a selection for these girls to choose from when their special night comes.

When the time comes, they put on the dress…

…get their hair and make up done courtesy of Dolce…

(or courtesy of the camp counselors if there’s a mudslide that shuts down the highway so that most of the Dolce crew isn’t able to make it… as was the case this year!).

(If you happen to be one of the people helping out in some of these photos, you can tag yourself in them on our Facebook page).

…add in some accessories…

…and prepare to be treated like royalty for the rest of night!

When I say royalty, I mean it!  I’m talking red carpet, paparazzi, and glittering everything!

Not to mention a group of studs who volunteer to escort the girls down the carpet and spend the rest of the night serving them!

They’re older guys of course, because lets face it, they’re the hottest (ha ha I’m just saying that because I always joke with Scottie about being 6 years older than me)!

In the past, we have promoted the dress drive so that all of our brides know where to send their bridesmaids to donate their dresses once the wedding’s over.  However, this year we were asked to volunteer our time to take photos for the actual Princess dinner and we couldn’t have been more honored.

Since it was our first time at this camp, we didn’t quite know what to expect so we were a little nervous.  And when we showed up at the camp, we found we weren’t the only ones who were nervous.

The girls there were dressed in old jeans, sweats, and tennis shoes and were struggling to balance both their excitement and their nerves as they anticipated the events that were to come that night!

For a girl who is more used to rejection than loving affection, it can be a very scary thing to have that much positive attention thrust on her all at once!

It was so fun to watch them go through their big transformation. They’d get their hair done and would feign indifference by saying “yeah, it looks OK I guess”, then as they put on their necklaces on they’d try to hide the smiles that were creeping out, and by the time the entire process was done, they were absolutely beaming.

I saw one girl who hadn’t even begun the hair and makeup process, but as soon as she saw herself in the dress she broke down crying.

Of course she had her “cousin” (camp counselors) right there next to her to hold her and encourage the experience she was going through as she finally felt beautiful for the first time ever.

I really loved watching the girls walking down the red carpet arm in arm with their male escorts.

As girls will do, they were all giggly about the guys who were all dressed up and about to… touch their arm (gasp)!!  It’s funny how teenage girls never change! ;-)  Aside from the shy smiles and darting glances up at the guys’ faces, my favorite part about watching this was how the guys treated them.

I know they had some coaching, but man, the guys took this and ran with it!  They only had a runways length to talk to the girl on their arm and in that time they managed to help the girls forget the awkwardness of so many eyes on them and start laughing and… well, feeling beautiful.

You could just see it happening, if there was a confidence meter that you could actually see that day, it would have started at the bottom, climbed slowly up with each “beauty station” the girls passed through, and then shot through the top as they walked down that red carpet with the guys.  SO awesome!

After their grand entrances, the girls sat down to a fabulous meal, at an equally stunning table.

I have to say, my jaw completely dropped when I saw the “ballroom”.  I mean, they had this place decked out!

I’d be surprised if there was a single piece of hot pink anything left in the state of Arizona that was not in that room once they were done decorating.

No bling, no expense, and definitely no pink was spared as this Princess dinner was created.  Just as it should be for a princess.

Props to Margie at Party Presentations for making all the shinyness happen!

The girls proceeded to sit through what was probably the first fancy meal they’ve ever had in their lives, complete with place cards, corsages, crabcakes, and cute waitors who filled up their glasses before they even got half empty.

They were living the high life… and loving every second of it.  After dinner came the dancing.  The girls learned a few dances and then got to let loose and have a little fun.

I can’t even imagine what a night like this would mean to girls who are so used to being treated the exact opposite of a princess.  I know that they will absolutely never forget it.

The best part is that this was just the first night of the TRAC camp!  When we left, they still had a couple more days to go where they had people all around them loving on them and trying to reinforce in everyway that they are each just as special as a princess.

P.S. Since one of our goals with our Radiant Love program is to spread the word about different ways to help others in your community, I couldn’t possibly end this without telling you how to get involved (fan us on Facebook to stay updated with our Radiant Love activities along with all our recent photo sessions)! There are so many ways for you to help out with this!  You can donate money (and get tax credits!), volunteer time, give your old dresses, etc, etc.  And the Princess Program is only one piece of the puzzle.  They also have TRAC camps for boys where they have an “All-Star Program“.  If you’re looking for a place to invest your time, money, or heart, I highly recommend you check out Hope & a Future because after doing it personally, I’d say it’s a VERY worthwhile investment!

July 20, 2010 - 12:51 pm

Ashley Gain - Scottie & Breanna!!! These pictures are making me tear up. I can’t begin to tell you how great it was to meet you at the event! I wish you could have seen the transformations that took place from that Sunday through the rest of the program. You are such a blessing! Let’s get together a talk events soon! xoxo

July 20, 2010 - 4:20 pm

Jenny Mertes - I am so proud of my friends Ken and Jenny W. for being part of this camp as counselors and facilitators – in their “off time” from another camp they help to run. Wonderful people!

July 20, 2010 - 4:39 pm

Connie Hawkinson - Thanks for posting these pictures in a blog. My daughter and son-in-law were there as counselors and it is neat to see what they have told us about. Blessings to everyone who worked so hard to make it happen. Awesome!!

July 21, 2010 - 7:28 pm

Nicholas Leong - I think both of you did a fantastic job telling the story without faces.

You are getting me teary eyed!

July 23, 2010 - 12:58 am

Gina Meola - Love this!!! And you!! ;) What a fantastic project. Beautiful, beautiful!

July 31, 2010 - 6:09 pm

Jan Brewer - You are all to be commended for all you do! These pictures are just breathtaking and really give me Goosebumps. I’m proud to know so many of you. You’re leaving your footprints and really making a difference in these girls life’s

January 18, 2011 - 5:13 pm

Alexandra Hunt - I love this – so much. I support ethical giving for women and children in Third World Countries in my work (I donate supplies and intangibles – like home birthing kits, baby blankets, literacy training – for every session and wedding I book), and I love LOVE seeing other photographers making a difference, too. One day, I’d love to run something like this Princess Program. What a blessing! You guys rock!

January 11, 2012 - 3:07 am

A true story about Extraordinary Living (Kelli Freeman: Part 2) | Rare Existence - [...] is.  That moment to me, said so much about what you do. (I want to encourage everyone to go read the blog post I wrote about our first experience with the Princess Program because the pictures in it really help tell [...]

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