Dani Lutz

Dani Lutz’s junior prom is more than a year away, but that doesn’t keep her from daydreaming about what she’ll wear.

Dani Lutz

“When I’m at a store that sells those kinds of dresses, I look a little bit,” admitted the sophomore at Groves High School in Beverly Hills. “I am excited for next year. Prom is something everyone should experience.”

But not everyone can afford the dress, shoes and accessories that the formal event mandates. So Dani has joined forces with the Princess Project to, as she puts it, “change people’s lives one dress at a time.”

The organization has five sites in California where girls can shop for a prom dress and accessories completely free of charge. When Dani heard about it last year, “I knew it was a good fit for me,” said the 15-year-old Birmingham resident. “I love getting dressed up.”

She spread the word through student council, Facebook, Instagram and friends of friends, and mom Beth Lutz has been a big help. Last year, mother and daughter amassed about 75 items, mostly dresses but also fancy wraps, purses and other accessories, spent a few hundred dollars on postage, and shipped them off to California. This year they have already surpassed that amount.

“It felt really good to help all those girls,” said Dani, who is active in ORT and likes to play tennis, golf and ski. “I got pictures of some girls with the dresses with the tag showing that I donated it, and that was really nice.”

It’s fun to see what sorts of donations come in, Dani said. “We are definitely getting dresses we want to keep,” she said with a laugh.

“We want all sizes, and it’s really important that this is just not for tiny girls,” she added. “One of the reasons I feel a strong connection to the Princess Project is that they celebrate teens all across the board in every shape and size.”

Said Beth, “Nothing screams confidence like wearing something beautiful.”

The Princess Project has helped more than 25,000 girls over the years, said board member Kira Keating, and the giveaways are exciting events.

“It’s amazing. The girls are matched up with a volunteer who helps them pick out different dresses to try on. Once they decide on a dress, they get moved over to the accessories area, where they get to pick one item like shoes or jewelry,” Keating said.

“But what I like best is that it’s almost like a mini mentorship,” she added. “These girls are at such a pivotal time in their lives, and they are always asking questions about where I went to college and my career.”

Donated items should be very dressy, new or nearly new in perfect condition, be in style (no cheesy bridesmaid dress from your cousin’s long-ago wedding) and be dry-cleaned and on a hanger.

“They should be fancy party dresses from proms, homecoming, weddings or bat mitzvahs,” explained Dani, who herself donated the bridesmaid’s dress she wore in a recent family wedding, calling it “actually not a terrible dress.”

The Lutz family is accepting donations through March 15. Call Beth Lutz at (248) 505-7404 or email freelutz@me.com to donate. The Princess Project accepts donations year-round at P.O. Box 471045, San Francisco, CA 94147. Visit PrincessProject.org.