GARDINER — After waking at 3:30 a.m. Saturday to make the drive from Greenville to Gardiner, where they were first in line for the Cinderella Project of Maine’s annual prom dress giveaway, senior Brianna Cobb and Italian exchange student Eleonora Inversi wrapped themselves in blankets as they waited, with Cobb’s mother, Kathy, to get inside.

They arrived at the front entrance to Gardiner Area High School around 5:45 a.m., the first to choose from the more than 500 dresses waiting inside, when the doors opened at 9 a.m.

Cobb and Inversi tried on several each before Cobb chose a little black dress and Inversi found a pink dress with sequins.

Meg Gipson, chairwoman of the project and an art teacher in Gardiner, said any Maine high school girl was eligible to come pick out a prom dress. She said there were no income restrictions, and noted even families who could afford to buy a prom dress could, perhaps, spend the money they might otherwise spend on a prom dress on other things, such as putting it toward college expenses.

“We provide an equal opportunity,” Gipson said.

In exchange for the dresses, students simply are asked to “pay it forward” by doing something for their community.

For many, that includes donating their prom dresses back to the program so other girls can enjoy them next year.

Gipson said the project, beyond providing free prom dresses to high school students, is meant to promote positive self-esteem and encourage community volunteerism among teens.

The dresses were all donated, including many from dress shops and other businesses.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kedwardskj