Matching the buzz about the new Cinderella movie that premiered in theaters last weekend was the electrical air of excitement felt at the annual tea Sunday in honor of the girls who are living Arlington’s own version of the Cinderella story.
The 20 teens who are vying for the crown of Miss Cinderella formed two receiving lines flanking the entrance to the Arlington Woman’s Club and personally greeted around 300 guests who were there to meet them. If their high heels were producing some discomfort, no hint of it was seen on the smiling faces of the girls as they chatted individually with each arriving guest.
The Cinderella Charity Ball, set for April 4 at the Arlington Convention Center, is Arlington’s oldest continuing social and charitable event. The candidate raising the most money in a seven-week campaign is crowned Miss Cinderella after a formal presentation ceremony attended by more than 1,000 guests. The ball is produced by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Arlington, and all funds raised benefit the youth agency.
“We are so thankful to the Arlington Woman’s Club for letting us use their beautiful facility. The tea is a wonderful event for the candidates and gives their families and friends a chance to show support for them,” said Susan Godfrey, who was in charge of the tea along with auxiliary member Suzanne McCabe.
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As many time-worn social conventions become passe, the Cinderella Tea and the Cinderella Ball are reminiscent of earlier times when very formal behavior was the norm at fancy social gatherings. Undaunted by the departure from today’s informal, technology-heavy life, the energetic candidates were completely at ease. But when the receiving line dismissed, the roar of teenage chatter was deafening as the girls dispersed to join their friends as they enjoyed refreshments and socializing.
“This group of candidates has been wonderful — they’ve done everything we’ve asked and then some. The tea is the time for them to be introduced and visit with their friends at this halfway point in their campaign,” said Julie Cerza, co-chairwoman of the ball with Dawn Serman.
Cerza said each girl — in addition to her traditional direct mail and phone campaign — has hosted individual or group fundraising events to boost contributions. “All of the candidates from one school held a Kendra Scott [jewelry] fundraiser, and most of them have participated in restaurant fundraisers,” Cerza said. “Blue Mesa is hosting a fundraiser that will benefit all 20 candidates. And the girls have used social media to help get the word out about these special events.”
Candidate Shelby Mayo from Sam Houston High School said her campaign has been great so far, despite the fact that health issues have confined her to a wheelchair.
Although battling chronic illness (she suffers from chronic regional pain syndrome and dysautonomia), she is determined to fully participate in all the activities.
“I will completely forge on no matter what the circumstances are,” she said. “God has gotten me through everything, and I’m here because of him.”
Mayo said the other candidates and the ladies from the auxiliary have been “incredibly helpful.”
Now in its 55th year, the Cinderella Ball will feature a cocktail hour and seated dinner before master of ceremonies Jimmy Bennett introduces each candidate as she takes her bow before the crowd of enthusiastic supporters.
Tickets are $95. Learn how to donate at www.CinderellaCharityBall.com.
Callie McClellan, a junior at Pantego Christian Academy, said the experience so far has been stressful, exciting and a lot of work.
“It’s been exciting to go to my mailbox each day and see the letters and the donations coming in,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of new friends, and it has really been fun.”
Admittedly worried about how to juggle talking to everyone who came to the tea in her support, she said she now realizes the value of standing in a receiving line.
The granddaughter of the late Catherine A. Lautzenheiser, a stalwart figure in early Cinderella programs and for whom a Cinderella scholarships is named, is Martin High candidate Kristin Norris. Explaining that she grew up doing community work with her grandmother, Norris said she is honored to carry on her grandmother’s legacy.
“Even though I knew what to expect, it’s been harder than I thought it would be but so totally worth it,” Norris said.
Candidates at the tea included Lamar High School students Mary Catherine Arnott, Samantha Choi, Hagan Griffith, Emma Lee Harper, Emily Lowke and Erin O’Brien.
Martin High School: Jenna Daniels, Sarah Hoover, Madeleine Calderon, Kaitlin McGuire and Kristin Norris.
Arlington High School: Elisabeth Crosier, Megan Gray, Ally Jerome and Tiffany Smith.
The Oakridge School: Brittany Kasko, Riley Mohorc and Maddie Lowe.
Pantego Christian Academy: Callie McClellan.
Sam Houston High School: Shelby Mayo.