A Cinderella Night For Dads And Daughters

The Princess Ball was founded in 2002, said co-founder Elizabeth Joyce of Ridgefield, and the first father-daughter formal dance was held at Ridgefield Community Center in March 2003.

“I had two wonderful father-daughter dances with my own dad as a girl, and many wonderful memories of them,” said Ms Joyce, explaining one of the main reasons she initiated the annual event. “It is definitely [an evening] about fathers and daughters connecting. Girls need to know how to be treated [as they grow up], and they can learn that from their fathers,” she said.

Preparation for the evening is also a chance to teach young girls etiquette and simple ballroom dancing. Beyond the bonding element, the Princess Ball also serves as a means to introduce young women to philanthropy, Ms Joyce said. Each year, money raised through sales of tickets, a silent auction, and private donations goes to support three local charities.

More than 2,000 fathers and daughters have attended the Princess Balls (held in Westport since 2008) since its inception, and now young girls in grades 1–5 from the Newtown area will have the opportunity to take part in a more convenient location.

The first Northern Fairfield County Princess Ball will take place Friday, May 3, at Rock Ridge Country Club in Newtown, from 6:30 to 10 pm. Because Princess Ball is a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the $100 per person ticket is tax deductible.

The May 3 event is limited to 120 people, with registration at www.princessball.org opening on March 15, until tickets are sold out.

“We do anticipate that this ball will be popular, and will sell out,” said Ms Joyce.

The idea of bringing the Princess Ball to northern Fairfield County was that of Danbury resident Amy Naughton, whose daughters and husband have attended past balls in Ridgefield. She had been toying with the idea since last year, and when she realized in December that she and her husband would be away on business for the March event, she approached Princess Ball Executive Director Danielle Cohen and Ms Joyce.

“We met and discussed it, and gave Amy some direction. She has been putting it together since January,” said Ms Joyce, “and has put together a committee, and been spreading the word.”

The Northern Fairfield County Princess Ball will be a more convenient venue than the Westport location for girls and fathers who live in northern Fairfield County, Ms Joyce said. They expect that not only father/daughter couples from Newtown will attend, but from Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, and other area towns.

The Princess Ball had been so popular with her daughters and their friends, said Ms Naughton, “that I thought so many other children and fathers in northern Fairfield County would enjoy that night and chance to learn about charity.”

She was pleased to find that Rock Ridge Country Club would be available for the new event, having visited the Sugar Street venue the previous summer.

“It has the feel we were looking for,” Ms Naughton said, “and the club house is just beautiful.”

A Wonderful Experience

Elvia and David Burke, who moved to Sandy Hook last year from Ridgefield, are excited that the Princess Ball is coming to Newtown. Mr Burke and daughter Colette attended their first Princess Ball last year.

“It was a wonderful experience,” said Mr Burke. “I was initially attracted to the concept as a unique bonding experience. Of course, every father treats his daughter as a princess, and every little girl looks up to her daddy as a hero. But this event truly was an opportunity for both of us to dress in our finest and attend a proper social function in a manner and setting befitting a princess,” he said.

Prior to attending the Princess Ball, Mr Burke and Colette discussed the concept of charitable giving, he said.

“I wanted her to understand the reason for the event, not just the event,” said Mr Burke.

He was pleased, he said, to see the nature of generosity explained during the course of the evening, and sees the Princess Ball as a component in developing young women who will “have charity in their minds and compassion in their hearts.”

Mr Burke was also surprised to discover a fellowship among the likeminded men attending the dance with their daughters.

“Meeting other fathers who have similar hopes and aspirations for their daughters reinforces the value these types of events have for the future of our communities,” he said.

The evening of dining and dancing, with dads in tuxedoes and daughters in gowns and tiaras, provides not only a bookmark in time for the attendees, agreed Ms Joyce, but fulfills the other important mission of the evening: raising money for charity.

Girls are exposed to the mission of philanthropy on several levels, said Ms Joyce. Attendees are greeted at the door by representatives from the charities that will benefit from the evening. An informal meeting of charity representatives follows during the hors d’oeuvres hour of the evening.

Each of the three charity representatives gives a brief talk during the dinner meal, as well.

At the Teddy Bear Table, girls can purchase a stuffed bear and decorate a tag to go with it. That bear goes to a child in a hospital or foster home, and the girls take home a “buddy bear.”

A silent auction is held during the course of the evening, and monetary donations can be attached to a “giving tree” in the room. All funds go to the charities, and each year, approximately $40,000 is raised at the event.

The May 3 Princess Ball will support Family & Children’s Aid in Danbury, Healing Hearts Bereavement Center in Danbury, and The Molly Ann Tango Memorial Foundation.

Adding to the beauty of the evening, each father presents his daughter with a sterling silver bracelet during a special ceremony at dinnertime. Each year, previous attendees receive an exclusive Princess Ball silver charm to add to the bracelet.

“Then,” said Ms Joyce, “when she outgrows the ball, she will have a beautiful memory of this time with her father.”

Each girl also receives a Princess Memory Book for autographs collected during the ball, and in which “love notes,” submitted by parents and siblings are printed.

“I definitely see [the Northern Fairfield Princess Ball] continuing over the years, and would love to see it grow larger, and eventually grow to include girls up to grade 8,” said Ms Naughton.

“There is such a need for girls to spend quality time with their fathers, and learn why charity and giving back to the community is so important,” she said. “[The Princess Ball event] helps girls learn at a young age that we are all together in this world and need to help one another. The ball is just another outlet to do so, and the girls see that they can make a difference,” Ms Naughton said.

To find out more about the Northern Fairfield County Princess Ball and to register, beginning March 15, visit www.princessball.org. Donations are also accepted at this site.

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