My name is Stephen Weiss and I am the owner of LaFrance Cleaners. I consider myself a lucky man in so many ways. I grew up in a good home, and my wife and I passed on the love and stability we received to our children. For all of the foster kids in this country that security and hope just isn’t there, making people like Mary Noble so important. As a foster mother, she’s opened her heart to dozens of children struggling to find their way in the midst of hardship. Now, she wants to show all of the foster kids in our community just how much they are loved by hosting a couple of events starting with a gala night, “Princess at Heart”. Good news travels fast here, and when I found out about her project, I knew that we could help by making LaFrance Cleaners the collection center (and sprucing specialists) for all of the gala gowns. I’ll let Mary tell you the rest, but I know that we all can pull together and give these kids a wonderful time and a beautiful memory!
Mary’s Story (in her own words)
My first foster children were three little babies from the same family. The oldest was one of the most adorable things you’ve ever seen, but at just five years old, she was the one taking care of her younger brother and sister while their family lived out of a car. When they came into my home, I just couldn’t shake the look they gave me – their eyes were empty as if they had been robbed of emotion in a way that most of us just can’t imagine. They couldn’t smile, they’d never learned how from their family. They were survivors, and surviving doesn’t leave much time for dreams. Today, it’s 17 years and 64 kids later. Every one of them is my child, and each day that goes by, I still see their faces in the pictures on my wall and that empty look in the children who continue to fin new places in my heart and home.
A while ago, my husband Bob and I started toying with the idea of throwing a party to remind the kids in our foster community just how beautiful, strong and full of potential they truly are. Our fist go at this would be a “Princess at Heart” gala, and while we knew one night doesn’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, we wanted to help give these kids a reason to smile again. Even if it was just for a few hours, we could show these girls just how special they are, and most of all, give them a chance to dream again. Bob and I started saving a bit here and there for the event, and to generate some prayers and good wishes, I posted an announcement on Facebook. With that post, what started small grew into an amazing show of compassion that will give these girls a night to remember!
My initial Facebook post has been passed all around and back agin! These days I have people who I’ve never met (sent to me by strangers twice removed!) all trying to make this gala one of the best childhood memories for these kids. Right now our county has about 70 girls in foster care and I would like to see each an every one of them at our ball. The girls will get to pick out their own beautiful ball gown, get their hair and nails professionally done, and dance the night away. For one night they can truly be Cinderella – they already have the key, they show me every day how beautiful their hearts are.
So much of this night has been donated – stylists, dresses, shoes, trinkets and girly accessories for the gift bags. Even the venue in Boardman, The Magic Tree, is giving us its facility for the evening, and we’re going to put on a feast full of fun and magic to make some fantastic memories. My dream is to turn the banquet hall into a castle ballroom with a modern touch! I want the girls to take home as much as they can, so it would be a dream come true to see one of those fun little photo booths you see at fairs and malls. We’re not quite there yet to make this possible for all of the girls in the county, but with the community support I really believe we can make this more than a dream.
Mr. Weiss has been outstandingly kind, and not only is he cleaning all of the donated dresses, he’s opening up LaFrance Cleaners as the official drop-off point for donations going to our gala night. We still need more gowns and dressy shoes, decorations to truly make the night fairy-tale worthy, goodies for the gift bags, and to put the cherry on top, I would love to get a limo service to take all of the girls from Children’s Services to Magic Tree. When we started out, Bob and I thought we would just give them a night of good fun, but this has turned into a truly remarkable effort of love coming from all parts of our community, and once we pull this off, we want to keep the ball rolling through Fostering Dreams , the non-profit organization that came out of Princess at Heart. These are our kids, they come from our town, our community. They come and live in our homes, and they are loved with all of our hearts. Listed below are a few ways that you can contribute.
Thank you for helping us show these girls just how precious they truly are!
Here’s How You Can Help:
- Donate a new or gently used party dress or dressy shoes for a girl aged 2-18 at any LaFrance Cleaners location or give it to your Pick-Up & Delivery driver and let him know that it is for the “Princess at Heart” Gala. They need all sizes.
- You can also donate “fairy-tale worthy” goodies for the gift bags.
- You can make a cash or check donation to Fostering Dreams at any LaFrance Cleaners location or you can mail it directly to:
Fostering Dreams P.O. Box 161 Struthers, OH 44471