The Cheyenne River Youth Project® has officially launched its 2017 Dress Drive for Passion for Fashion. The nonprofit organization is asking its friends and supporters to donate everything from dresses to hair accessories so its young people can be ready for this spring’s high school prom.

On the surface, the prom is all about glamorous gowns and dashing tuxedos, fresh corsages and sparkling jewelry, popular music and lots of dancing. Underneath, however, this uniquely American rite of passage is about so much more—it’s a celebration of friendship, multigenerational bonding, and positive self-esteem.

Unfortunately, for too many teenagers on the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation and in neighboring rural towns, this vision can seem far from reality. Their families cannot spare the significant funds necessary for the latest formal wear and all the accessories, nor is it feasible for them to make the three- to five-hour round trip required to go shopping in distant Pierre or Rapid City.

Executive Director Julie Garreau, Youth Programs Director Tammy Granados and the rest of the CRYP staff firmly believe that Cheyenne River’s youth should have the same exciting, memorable prom experiences as those enjoyed by teens across America. To provide that experience, the grassroots youth project created Passion for Fashion in 2001.

“At its heart, Passion for Fashion has much in common with our more well-known Christmas Toy Drive,” Garreau said. “In both cases, our young people are simply amazed to see the miracle that unfolds at Cokata Wiconi. They feel how treasured they are, and they come to realize how many people truly do care.”

The 17th annual Passion for Fashion event is scheduled for 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, March 25 at Cokata Wiconi. For the ninth year in a row, it will feature a special theme.

“This year, our theme will be ‘Masquerade’ in the context of the 1986 movie ‘Labyrinth,’” Granados said. “We’re looking forward to unleashed creativity! We’re also eager to incorporate the movie’s exploration of personal strength and overcoming obstacles. Those are all powerful messages, particularly for our young women.”

At Passion for Fashion, Cheyenne River’s teens will take part in icebreaking activities and a sit-down luncheon in the Keya (Turtle) Cafe; hear a keynote speaker; receive manicures, pedicures, makeovers and hair styling; find their dream dresses, shoes and accessories; and celebrate their transformed selves on a formal catwalk. Along the way, they’ll make memories with staff members, volunteers, friends, and family members of all ages.

“We encourage our young women to bring their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters and cousins to Passion for Fashion,” Garreau said. “This is a major life experience, and each year, we witness the impact it has on these girls to share that experience with their loved ones. We also see how the girls find common ground with each other, and by the end of the evening, new friendships are forming.”

While the afternoon is indeed about shopping, pampering, dressing up and having fun, the teens and their family members also support each other as they work through difficult issues such as bullying, low self-esteem and poor body image.

“At Passion for Fashion, we share important messages that we hope will serve these teens well for the rest of their lives,” Granados said. “We also ensure that they make priceless, magical, lifelong memories, which each of them deserves so much.”

All high-school girls on the Cheyenne River reservation receive personalized invitations to Passion for Fashion, and junior-high girls are welcome to attend as well. CRYP also welcomes teens from the nearby Standing Rock reservation, and from border towns such as Faith, South Dakota.

For its 2017 Passion for Fashion event, CRYP needs new and gently used formal dresses in sizes 4 to 26, especially in sizes 16 to 26. It also needs shoes in all sizes, especially in sizes 9 to 12.

The organization also asks for jewelry and hair accessories; makeup and bath sets; gift cards and cash donations. Staff and volunteers will take any contributed funds and make additional purchases based on need.

For details regarding how you can support CRYP’s Passion for Fashion program, click here. To learn more about the program, check out the video here. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.