VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Although public schools in Virginia Beach are now back in the classroom four days a week, COVID-19 has canceled a lot of school activities. Some high schools in the area have already decided to cancel prom. Others are waiting to make a decision.
But one organization that helps children in the foster care system has decided to continue its tradition of getting young ladies ready for prom.
Connect With a Wish, located just a couple of minutes from Kellam High School, has been around for about seven years. They help children of all ages who have been placed into foster care.
“When a child is removed from their home, it is traumatic,” explained Joy Rios, Executive Director of Connect With a Wish. “They are removed from their home and placed with a stranger, which, in essence, a foster parent is a stranger to them.”
Rios explained that a child is usually removed because of safety reasons. It could be an ill parent, death of a parent, abuse or neglect. She said many teens have to move schools and sometimes feel “lost.”
“They’re going through a lot of things and lost everything that they know, so they’re in a situation where they’re not feeling confident, as you can imagine.”
Connect With a Wish's annual event, which normally prepares foster kids for prom, is for teenage girls ages 14 to 18. Rios said they also help boys with making sure they have what they need for prom; however, they don’t seem to want a fancy event.
This year’s event will be held Saturday, May 1. The Connect With a Wish office will be transformed and even decorated with a red carpet. The girls will be assigned a personal shopper volunteer to help them find the perfect gown. The formal dresses have all been donated. They have a large array of styles and sizes; however, Rios says they can always use more plus-size dresses.
The teens will also have their hair and makeup done and have their pictures taken by a professional photographer. In past years, the event is held weeks before prom to make sure they are ready. The girls would also be given a gift card to have their hair and makeup done for prom night.
This year, Rios said they are doing the event in shifts, to keep the number of people down in the office. They’ll also have boxed lunches instead of the normal spread of food.
She and other volunteers really wanted to host the special day still because it gives the girls a huge confidence boost.
“Every time they walk out that dressing room and our volunteers are ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ over them, there are tears that day from volunteers and the girls themselves," described Rios. “And we’ve had numerous quotes over the years like ‘I just didn’t know I could look like this.’ I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard that.”
Connect With a Wish is located at 2492 North Landing Road, Virginia Beach 23456.
A night of charity will be held to benefit Connect With a Wish on May 18 from 5-10 p.m. at Wasserhund Brewing Company, located at 1805 Laskin Road.