Donated homecoming dresses help Harvey victims in Texas

SPRING, Texas (AP) — It was a difficult thing for a teenager to confess.

The Houston Chronicle reports it’s about admitting you want something that your mother can’t afford. Admitting that homecoming still mattered after your family has lost everything to Hurricane Harvey. Admitting that you still wanted to be a kid when you were trying to be strong for your family.

So Janiyah Tells kept quiet. The 16-year-old didn’t say anything to her mother, who was already fretting about finding a new place to live, already frazzled from shuttling six children split between different temporary homes.

Still, her mother knew.

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Rosenda Cuevas, whose own mother died when she was 17, always regretted not participating in high school dances and other teenage traditions. She didn’t want her daughter, a junior at Davis High School, to miss out.

But money is tight. The family’s Greenspoint apartment was gutted by flood waters, their belongings destroyed.

Then Cuevas heard about Ashley Reel — an Oak Ridge High School freshman who had started a campaign to collect homecoming dresses for girls impacted by Harvey. The dresses looked pretty online. Full of glitter and sequins and sparkle.

Just like she imagined for Janiyah.

So Cuevas emailed Reel, not quite knowing what to expect.


Ashley knows her family is luckier than many.

During Harvey, rising water swarmed through a nearby nature center, knocking down fences and leaving buildings in shambles. About 50 homes in the affluent subdivision in Spring were flooded.

But water never reached the Reels’ front door, which is adorned by a brightly colored “Welcome” wreath.

After the storm, Ashley and her family prepared sandwiches and meals for the displaced and the volunteers mucking out houses and ripping out drywall.

Not surprising for a family with a record of community service. Ashley’s 10-year-old brother created a nonprofit that distributes food to the homeless and has adopted 100 families to feed for Thanksgiving. Her older brother is an Eagle Scout who hand made 300 blankets for the Star of Hope shelter.

As the flood waters receded and the scope of Harvey’s destruction was revealed, Ashley kept thinking of kids her own age — classmates who lost homes to Harvey, the students at Kingwood High School whose building was ravaged, the teenagers all around Houston whose…

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