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Meet Kerry Spark of Cinderella’s Attic

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kerry Spark.

Kerry, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was fortunate to grow up in a little town in Connecticut where poverty was low and most households made above average income. Families had money for the extra things. Everyone went to the prom. Whether you went with your friends, or your significant other or your brother/sister, or even broke the mold and went by yourself, you went. Many of us shopped at the same store that recorded what dress we bought and what school prom we were attending, just so we could make sure no one else would be wearing the same dress. Seems silly now, but those were the things we were concerned about.

Fast forward to college in Boston, I realized I grew up in a bubble and had many privileges that others did not. I began my student teaching downtown and was awakened. My students touched my heart and I was saddened when I saw that some were unable to attend dances because of the cost. They wanted to go and to participate with their friends. And they wanted to dress up, to look and feel their best. That is what its all about. To build confidence, to create positive character building experiences, and lifelong memories. And these kids couldn’t do that.

So, I decided to do something about it. I put my ideas together and wanted to collect dresses to give to girls who could not afford them so that they could go to their proms with confidence and feeling good about themselves and who they are.

Then, I moved to San Diego. I began teaching here and saw a very similar, if not worse, situation for these girls too. I got on it and started putting things into action and within two months, I had my 501(c)(3) paperwork filed and dresses filling my garage from friends and family around the country. That spring, 2006, I held my first annual Prom Boutique(tm) at a North Park dance studio and about 20 girls came to get dresses. It was amazing and I was hooked!

Thirteen annual Prom Boutiques later, hundreds of girls come to each event and more often than not every single one of them leaves with the perfect dress- so perfect there is often tears from many of these young women, their mothers, and our volunteers. They also go home with the accessories to complete their outfit — shoes, a clutch purse, and jewelry. Smiles abound!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Overall, the process has been relatively smooth I’d say. As a former teacher, reaching out to all of the local schools over the years, making connections, forming bonds to tighten the relationships with the administration at each of them has been seamless and has helped my organization grow each year.

Challenges have to do with managing the growth of the organization. Connecting with schools, collecting dress donations, organizing dress drives, organizing amazing boutique events – that has come easy. Developing a board of directors, recruiting volunteer help year round, and fundraising are all special skills that were new to me – but essential to supporting the organization. I’ve been surrounded by smart people that have mentored me and I’ve learned as I go. I find that if I stay focused on our mission, then all else will follow.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Cinderella’s Attic – what should we know?
Our mission has been the same since 2006 — Building Confidence One Girl at a Time(tm). Every girl is already beautiful when they come to us looking for their perfect prom outfit. We help bring it out of them through instilling confidence, self-esteem… and a perfect dress. We provide free formal dresses, shoes, and accessories to high school students that can’t otherwise afford them. It is our privilege to help them shine in whatever way they feel most confident. That is what sets us apart from others.

Cinderella’s Attic(tm) is a local 510(c)(3) non-profit that began in San Diego in 2006 as a small, garage operated organization that quickly grew once schools got word of what we were all about. Our trademark event is the Annual Cinderella’s Attic Prom Boutique(tm) – a chic event where the girls get to come and “shop” for their free prom outfit. Loud music, tons of dresses, racks of shoes, personal shoppers to assist, stylists to provide hair and makeup pointers – nothing about this feels like charity. We make them feel as glamorous as they are and every one of them leaves the event with a bag full of goodies and a huge smile on their face! It is a day to remember for everyone involved. We just wrapped up our 13th Annual Prom Boutique at the House of Blues San Diego. We turned the Music Hall into a Prom Boutique. It was amazing. House of Blues has never seen so many prom dresses.

We also host an Annual Cinderella’s Attic Throwback to Prom(tm) fundraising gala. Each fall, we invite guests, over 21, to go back to prom. Each event has its own theme, and guests dress head to toe. Last year was a 007 secret agent theme, and the guests were decked out head to toe in their favorite James Bond characters. It’s been so much fun, and all proceeds help cover the cost of running our Prom Boutique each year.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Being an organization for 13 years and starting it myself from what seemed like a simple idea, I certainly have a lengthy list of people to thank! Whether it is individuals like Jamie Pruitt, from Jamie Pruitt Law, who has been with us from day one and assisted us with the necessary 501(c)(3) legal paperwork and was on our board for many years following, or school administrators like Mrs. Jo Berman, a now retired Principal, from Twain High School who was the first school we collaborated with in April of 2006, when I brought a bin of prom dresses to her office to help as many of her students as we could- everyone in my journey has played their part.

I have met and formed wonderful, lasting relationships with so many new people that have helped shape me as a leader of this organization, many of whom are non-profit leaders themselves. Adrienne Holmes of the Toby Wells Foundation has been a tremendous mentor, friend, and supporter for me over the years, and helped guide me when I have needed direction. Connecting with other non-profit board leaders has greatly helped to improve and strengthen the organization and its progress.

Cinderella’s Attic’s board members have grown in size over the years, and for that, I am grateful. Each person that is on our board brings something unique and special to the organization and we are looking forward to seeing where all the new ideas will bring us in years to come! Some members, Stefanie Lyon, Jen Brown, and Jason Spark, who are currently on the board, have been with us for over ten years, if not from the start, and their help, support, and contribution to the organization is amazing!

When I began Cinderella’s Attic, I was already a very social, talkative person, but after realizing how much more exposure the organization would need in the San Diego communities, I realized that I had to come out of my shell even more. This was fun though because it has allowed me the opportunity to meet so many of the local business owners and form connections with others that I might not have otherwise. It also showed me a level of town camaraderie that is so important to build when you are trying to get support from others. They will cheer you on when they see the passion for what you are doing and your kindness in supporting what they are doing as well. This comes down to the San Diego Bridal Show company for including us in their bridal shows to promote ourselves and get donations, local Poway businesses like Golden Spoon, Floaties, and Dailey Method, and San Diego businesses providing the space for our Prom Boutique(tm) such as the Hilton Mission Valley, Handlery Hotel Mission Valley, and House of Blues San Diego, and the venues for the Throwback to Prom(tm) events at Lomas Santa Fe Country Club and Bahia Resort. There are local florists, photographers, videographers, and other vendors donating their time and services in so many ways.

Then there are the schools. I could go on forever about the outpouring of support from the schools that we work with. The start of the Prom Boutique process when we reach out to the schools to let them know the date is by far my favorite part! The excitement in the counselor, ASB director or Principal’s voice when they hear my voice at the other end of the phone brings tears to my eyes. They are our biggest advocates. They spread the word to their students so that we can fill the room with eager eyed young ladies looking for their perfect prom outfit. Without their help, we would have a much harder time reaching the students.

The people who are consistent supporters though, through everything, and that will not change, are my family. My husband and three little girls will always be an integral part of this organization and I know they are proud of what Cinderella’s Attic is and has accomplished.

Contact Info:

  • Website: cinderellaasattic.org
  • Phone: 858-583-0225
  • Email: kerry@cinderellasattic.org
  • Instagram: cinderellasattic
  • Facebook: Cinderella’s Attic
  • Twitter: C_Attic


Image Credit:

Krista Mertz Photography, Pretty Branch Photography

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