(SPRING, Texas) — A Texas teen is keeping high school students who were affected by Hurricane Harvey from missing their homecoming dance.
Ashley Reel, 15, of Spring, Texas, began a homecoming dress drive immediately after the deadly storm. Since then, she’s gathered over 2,000 dress donations.
“It wasn’t really fair for them to not be able to go to homecoming because of the flooding down here, so I thought it would be something nice to do for them,” Ashley told ABC News. “Some people lost everything so I thought giving them a dress would help them through it.”
Ashley is a freshman at Oak Ridge High School in Conroe, Texas, just outside of Houston. Luckily, Ashley’s house was not damaged by Harvey, but she was sad to learn that some of her classmates and kids in the surrounding areas did lose their homes and belongings, said Ashley’s mom, Tammy Reel.
“[Ashley] said, ‘I want to help people my age,'” Reel told ABC News of her daughter. “Then she heard about a woman down on the other side of Houston who was collecting dresses.”
Ashley decided to start collecting gowns on her own. Her original goal of 50 dresses was surpassed by 300 in her first week of accepting donations.
Donors have contributed from across the country and as far as Germany. Ashley has so far helped 20 girls find dresses who attend high schools across the Houston area.
“It’s one less thing they don’t have to stress about,” said Marilyn Mann, community engagement specialist at Kingwood High School in Houston, whose students will receive gowns. “Ashley wants to empower young ladies. She wants them to feel like a princess.”
Ashley advertises her effort on a Facebook page by announcing events at local businesses for girls to try on dresses. Some girls make appointments to browse the dozens of racks that Ashley stores inside her home.
“I can’t tell you how many she’s exchanged numbers with,” said Reel. “It’s just the neatest thing that they are leaving with a friend.”
Janiyah Tells, 16, a student at Davis High School in Houston, Texas, is one of the many girls to whom Ashley has given a homecoming dress.
Janiyah’s family had lost their home and all of their belongings in the storm, her mother, Rosenda Cuevas, told ABC News.
“I saw [Ashley] on the news early that morning and I had seen what they were doing for the girls and I thought that it would be a great opportunity and a blessing for Janiyah because I don’t think she wanted to even ask me to go,” Cuevas said.
“I was nervous at first, but they were very sweet and so welcoming.”
Janiyah will attend her homecoming dance this Saturday with the gold dress and accessories she chose from Ashley’s collection.
This weekend, Ashley is hosting a “Say Yes to the Dress” homecoming event at a local business, which will be open to young girls who were affected by Harvey or are having financial difficulties purchasing a gown.
“The best part about it is seeing them happy,” Ashley said. “I would like to help as many girls as I can, but if I don’t get rid of them I would like help them go to prom too.”
Ashley said she’s begun collecting suit donations for boys who wish to attend their homecoming dance as well.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.