Operation Cinderella offers free events to low income or at-risk students as a practical way to show love towards young girls who are vulnerable to the pressures of their culture, and uses our events as an opportunity to show them that they are precious, priceless, valued and cared about.
Operation Cinderella began as a one time event connected with a local women’s group in the Fox Valley. It was such a powerful event that the two founders (two moms – Mary Linden and Jill Vanden Oever) decided to continue the event on their own.
Operation Cinderella currently works with guidance counselors, teachers and social workers from 20 area schools in and surrounding the Fox Valley. The event is entirely volunteer run, and it is supported by financial and in-kind donations from local, regional, and national companies (and individuals).
As the event has grown, additional financial support was needed, so in 2015 Operation Cinderella of the Fox Valley received 501c3 status. The growth has been incredible: the first year 36 girls were helped and in 2015 over 200 girls attended. Projected attendance is for 300 girls to attend the dress event in 2016. In 2015 Operation Cinderella worked in partnership with the Appleton Masons Lodge and participated in a Pilot Program, a tuxedo give away for low income male students called Gentleman 101.
After holding our Operation Cinderella Prom dress give-away for the past 5 years we noticed the majority of the girls we serve seem to struggle with self-esteem and self-worth issues. A great number of them, when later surveyed, stated the Operation Cinderella day made a huge difference in how they viewed themselves. Some of our former participants returned to volunteer themselves after they are out of school, and they again mention this one day of extra encouragement, care, and affirmation made a huge impact. While working with school guidance counselors it became evident that self-worth and self-esteem are major issues for a rather large population of teen girls. These are issues that schools are often unable to adequately address. This was the reason behind creating the UNSTOPPABLE empowerment conference, which is designed to give a day of encouragement, affirmation, and inspiration to students who don’t often get anything extra. Many girls do not receive outside illumination or positive feedback. We believe that they are worth the extra effort.
Both of our events gives us a chance to positively impact teen girls’ lives. It another chance to demonstrate to our youth they have worth and a purpose in this world, and they are supported by their community to see what they can do to reach their best potential.
Our Board of Directors and Executive Director (from left to right):
- Mary Linden: President, Board of Directors
- Kathleen Regelman: Secretary, Board of Directors
- Jill Vanden Oever: Executive Director
- Kim Kneepkens: Member, Board of Directors
- Katie Vanden Oever: Treasurer, Board of Directors
- Not pictured- Holly DeLong: Member, Board of Directors