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Modern-day fairy made prom dream come true for four high school students

By JULIAN CAVAZOS
April 27, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 27, 2010 at 11:28 p.m.

Pat Jackson cuts fabric prior to hemming the  bottom of a prom dress. Jackson is making and donating four prom dresses to local students.

TOTAL PACKAGE

Other items the girls received included:

Free dinners at Olive Garden

A hotel room at Candlewood Suites for the girls to get dressed and get their make-up, nails and hair done - for free

Jewelry donated from MadiTay's in Victoria to match their dresses

Corsages and boutonnieres made out of ribbon

A photographer also came to shoot pictures of them getting ready

Junior League does Project Cinderella

Memorie Hoffman will have one of the greatest memories of her life, now that she attended prom.

Going to prom wasn't a for sure thing this year, she said.

"We live in government housing, and we get food stamps," the Memorial High School senior said. "I wasn't really sure if I could go to prom this year because we're low on money."

But after she heard that the Junior League of Victoria had more than 100 dresses she could look through that were donated by women in the community, that gave her hope.

She found a dress she liked.

"When I was going through the racks, I was like, 'it's that one,' she said. "It was a perfect fit."

The Junior League held a dress drive earlier this year for girls who would not be able to afford one for prom.

Girls who were interested in getting a dress applied with a letter expressing their family's financial struggles. In late April, between 60 to 70 girls went to the Junior League office to pick out their help through the Junior League.

Boys were given discounts for tuxedos.

Along with dresses to pick from, the students were also provided with shoes, jewelry, vouchers for restaurants, and vouchers to get their hair and nails done.

A few months ago, Rictoria Canales' dad got laid off. Had it not been for the Junior League, the 18-year-old might have not been able to go.

She picked out a black dress and shoes she liked.

"I loved the way it looked on me," said Rictoria, an MHS senior. "I felt beautiful. I'm really appreciative of everything that they've done."

For the past seven months, 18-year-old Shelby Hill's mom has been paralyzed from a stroke. Her grandma, Mary Lou Mejia, came with her to the Junior League to find a dress.

Wearing the dress, make-up and shoes she picked out for prom made it different than any other day, Shelby, who attends MHS, said.

"I think it would really make me feel like a princess for a day," Shelby said. "It's not just a fairy tale. It's a real life thing."

Pat Jackson wanted high school girls today to experience something she never got to.

She wanted them to have that one night when they can look, feel and be treated like a princess.

That is, she wanted them to attend prom.

Jackson, of Victoria, picked four lucky girls in the area unable to afford prom and offered to make dresses for them.

"It just felt like something I needed to do," Jackson said. "I just wanted to help somebody. It's hard to explain."

Pat JACKSON''s Many Talents

Jackson, 55, dropped out of high school her junior year, and never got to attend prom.

Later in life, she obtained a GED in Victoria.

For the past eight years, she has been a farrier, where she trims and balances horse's hooves, and places shoes on their feet.

In her past, she's also been an auto mechanic, a waitress, a factory worker, a city bus driver, a truck driver and hospital worker.

Through it all, she's always loved to sew. When she was in sixth-grade, her mom bought her a sewing machine for Christmas. She made her own clothes.

"This is my girly side," she said, laughing.

Earlier this year, while watching TV, she heard the Junior League of Victoria was having its annual Project Cinderella, where women donate dresses they don't need anymore to girls who are struggling financially to purchase one for prom.

"I thought, well, what could I do?" she said. "How special would it be if I could have dresses especially made for them?"

Right then, Jackson knew she had a bright idea.

She got word out to the community about a special drawing, where four girls would be selected.

About 10 girls either mailed or e-mailed her their names and contact information.

In March, KAVU, the local television station, came to her home, and aired Jackson's drawing, where she picked four names.

She contacted the four girls and invited them to her home to look at different fabric possibilities and to be fitted.

Two of the girls, 22-year-old sisters Courtney and Heather Marbach, were chosen. Both are physically and mentally disabled seniors at Memorial High School.

Heather chose to have a pink dress, and Courtney chose to wear a purple one.

Their mother, Debbie Marbach, is grateful her daughters were able to attend prom May 1.

"I'm a single mom. Sending one to the prom is hard enough," said Marbach, a part-time teacher at the Victoria Christian School. "Trying to send two to the prom would've been impossible for me to do without some help."

Heather and Courtney said they were looking forward to spending the night with their friends, and dancing to country Western music.

"My favorite song is 'Boot Scootin' Boogie,'" said Courtney of a Brooks & Dunn song her mom always played for her on trips to the hospital in Houston. "It's always been my favorite song."

Another girl selected was Blair Ziegler, a MHS senior.

The 17-year-old lives with her grandma and works at Century Lanes bowling alley to help her grandma pay the bills.

Prom is expensive, she said.

"I've heard of one of my friends going and spending $500 at prom, with everything included," Blair said. "I can't be spending that kind of money. It's not something I can do at the moment."

After she picked out her material and saw what her dress looked like, she fell in love with it.

"It fit perfect; it's extremely hard to find dresses that fit my body type," Blair said. "I love it, honestly."

Through seeing the four girls' excitement over all these gifts, Jackson has been deeply touched by this experience.

"The honesty of the girls," Jackson said. "You can't hide when a person is grateful you do something for them. It just makes me feel good knowing I did something to help somebody."

Heather grew to love Jackson for making her feel like a princess.

"Mrs. Jackson's my best friend because she made my dress," Heather said.

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