Becoming the ‘Belle of the Ball’

Girls get free dresses from program set up by the Wellington Banquet Center


Junior Karla Gonzalez dances with her best friend Karla Alvarado in the middle of the dance floor at prom

Serena Ramirez sees her months of planning become a reality.

Racks and racks of dresses are lined up.

Girls are walking in with hope and out with their dresses in hand and smiles on their faces.

Ramirez made these girls’ dreams come true.

Because there was a need for this program in the community, Serena Ramirez, event coordinator at the Wellington Banquet Center, decided to create the Belle of the Ball, a program where girls can find their perfect formal dresses and get them for free.

“We saw a need for it in the community because there wasn’t another program like it,” Ramirez said. “The idea became a business plan, and then it became an event.”

The title of the program, Belle of the Ball, was used in order to get more people to notice the event.

“We did some research on what it was called in other cities,” Ramirez said. “Belle of the Ball was the one that kind of stuck out to me because we work in an event venue where you can actually have a ball.”

Ramirez set up the event by continually advertising it on the news, social media, and by making it a high school competition so more teens would find out about it.

“We got out a press release which got it on the news,” Ramirez said. “We also made it a competition so each dress donated is worth one point and the school that had the most points gets a free prom.”

Junior Karla Gonzalez found her perfect dress by trying them on with her best friend Karla Alvarado’s help.

“We chose our dresses and my mom and I fell in love with my dress,” Gonzalez said. “It just reminds me of a princess.”

Freshman Isabelle Ruth said the best part of finding her dress was “that moment” when she saw herself in the mirror.

“I am very glad that the Wellington decided to do this,” Ruth said. “Kids on a budget for prom or a formal event are able to get a free prom dress, and they’re all really cute.”

By the end of the Belle of the Ball, many others found their prom dress as almost 50 out of 445 dresses were taken home.

Because this program was so popular, Ramirez won News Channel 6’s community service champion in 2014 for coordinating the Belle of the Ball program.

“It means a lot to us because we are making somebody else’s prom dream come true,” Ramirez said. “The look on these girls’ faces kind of makes it all worth it. It makes me feel like I’ve made a small difference in somebody’s life.”