By: Debbie Feehs
Eugene–On a cold Sunday morning a red carpet leads to the entrance of Valley River Inn. This is just the beginning of the pampering many young girls experienced at the Princess for a Day Event in Cal Young Neighborhood.
A Family for Every Child is a foster care program that helps foster children in both Oregon and Washington find permanent homes. AFFEC every year puts on this event where girls are able to come and be made over to feel like royalty for a day. Although the event is open to all young girls, Andrea Rippee, the President of the AFFEC board, said that the event expects about 75% of the expected 300 girls are from foster care.
The smell of hairspray and nail polish fills the first room, as girls are getting their hair, makeup, and nails done. The room is filled with tables covered in beauty supplies,where young girls sit as stylists do their hair and makeup. Each stylist is a volunteer from different beauty organizations throughout Oregon. Kellen Takenaka, both a member of the Rainbow Court and a part of the Lane County Pageant, helps girls in the hair and makeup room for her first year of volunteering at this event. She said she is helping with this event because “I love the whole event and idea.” As each girl enters the room they get to pick out a bag that is filled with beauty items such as a comb and a wand. Each girl then gets her choice of a crown. Once her hair and makeup is done a male University of Oregon student dressed in a tuxedo, escorts her to the next room.
AFFEC began in January 2006 when Christy Obi-Barrett wanted to start an organization that would help children in foster care find permanent homes. She was inspired to start the Princess for a Day event after a visit with her girls to Disney World. She said it made her think, “How wonderful that would be for a foster care girl to feel like a princess for a day.”
As the girls are escorted into the next room, many girls’ eyes grow wide as they see the many colors of hundreds of dresses in the room with the five tables filled with glittering accessories. For the last year AFFEC has been collecting donated dresses and accessories for this event. Some items they have saved from last year’s event. The two long rows of dresses vary in sizes from toddlers all the way to high school. As more volunteers run around helping pick out dresses and accessories, young girls twirl in front of the many mirrors set up around the room admiring their made over selves.
Making girls feel like Princesses is not the only way AFFEC is helping children in foster care. AFFEC started to raise awareness throughout Oregon when in November 2006 they began showing pictures of foster care children with the Heart Gallery. The Heart Gallery is an opportunity for businesses to participate in helping children find someone to support them. With pictures taken by professional photographers, businesses can display pictures of children who need homes.
Once each is girl’s makeover is complete, they are greeted by Miss Southern Oregon, Kayla Bowker. Complete with a pink gown, a sash, and a crown, Bowker has to kneel down to talk to most girls as they enter the photography room. Some girls pose for their photo in a small white chair with a garden background while others sit at a small dressing table with a white backdrop.
Finally a male UO student escorts the girls down a red carpet as they enter the ballroom of the hotel. Each girl is announced as they make their way to one of the eight tables in the ballroom. Each table looks fit for a princess with white tablecloths and pink napkins. The ballroom has an ice cream bar along with pastries brought out by volunteers. While many girls drink tea and eat pastries, volunteers from the Lane County Pageants and the Rainbow Court dance with girls on the dance floor.
Lauren Cartmell, a member of Rainbow Court, stands in a red gown by the exit to give the girls one more memory before they go. Each girl receives a copy of their portrait they took after they were finished with their makeover. Cartmell said it is “a day for them to have fun.”