Surrounded by her dad, her boyfriend, her best friend from school, plus a host of people who wanted only to make her day special, Paige Martin wiped away tears of joy Friday as she browsed through the racks of formal gowns at Patricia's Boutique.
It was a moment that wasn't supposed to be. Still reeling from the sudden death of her mother, Mary, from cancer just days before, she figured her dream of attending her first prom would have to remain just that — a dream.
But there were others who felt differently, including Hernando High guidance counselors Monica Lovett and Amanda Rodriguez, who selected Paige to be one of the Brooksville Junior Service League's two "Cinderella's Prom" finalists.
Patricia Lambright, owner of the downtown dress shop, has sponsored the effort for the five years. She arranged Friday's surprise presentation, which included balloons, a dress fitting and lunch at the Rising Sun Cafe.
The Cinderellas are chosen by their school guidance counselors based on academics, community service and circumstances. The 16-year-old junior, Lambright said, was a perfect choice.
"She's an honor student who works hard to help her family," Lambright said. "We looked at her circumstances and we just couldn't resist doing something nice for her."
The Cinderella honor includes a dress, shoes and accessories from Patricia's Boutique, plus donations from area businesses. Paige's hair and nails will be done by Mr. and Ms. Salon and Day Spa. A corsage and boutonniere will be provided by Alan's Florist. In addition, Paige and her date, Steven Pazdur, will be treated to dinner, courtesy of Papa Joe's Restaurant. Hernando High's prom is April 21 at the Palace Grand in Spring Hill.
Paige said she will always be grateful for the showing of generosity from the community. Her only regret was that her mother didn't live to see her dressed in a formal gown.
"She would have been so excited," she said. "I'll get her thumbs up. I'll feel it."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.