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Omaha woman, raised on military values, prepared to donate 2,000+ prom dresses for OPS seniors

'I’ve received a lot in my life through the military support system, so I’m there to just keep paying it forward'
Posted at 7:02 PM, Mar 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-29 12:29:04-04

RALSTON, Neb. (KMTV) — If you need a formal dress for an upcoming event Terri Smieja is the person to go to. She owns Cinderella's Formal Gown Rental in Ralston, where they have thousands of dresses available to rent.

She’s called the Omaha area home since 1997, but growing up she was an “Army Brat.”

“Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, lived in Arizona, Texas probably three or four times, Georgia, Germany, and I’m probably missing a few there.”

Smieja’s military life doesn’t end there. Her husband, Gerard, served in the United States Air Force for 25 years as a meteorologist. Climbing up to the rank of Master Sergeant.

“I fell in love with the uniform,” she grinned. “Daddy had it and my husband has it.”

In fact, Terri told Gerard she was opening the business while he was in Iraq.

She told us about another time when he was in the desert, and snow had trapped her and her daughter in their home. Terri told Gerard about the situation over a video call.

“All these military guys show up at my house, shovel all the snow, take all the snow off the deck. I was like, ‘What just happened?’ He goes, ‘Oh, I just made a phone call.’”

Military values and service to others that has rubbed off on Terri.

“It’s humbling if you can learn the gift of receiving — that’s a gift in itself. To allow somebody to do something for you,” she explained. “Because once you receive that you can also learn what you can do to pay it forward. What are my talents? What do I have to give that next person?”

She has dresses to give.

In 2018 a tornado outbreak tore through Marshalltown, Iowa, leaving behind destruction and devastation.

Terri wanted to give back. She packed up a trailer full of formal dresses and gave away 300 to high school students in the town for their homecoming dance. All for free.

“Obviously, I’ve received a lot in my life through the military support system, so I’m there to just keep paying it forward,” she said.

Terry has held giveaways for Night to Shine, a dance for those with special needs, and for foster girls through Foster Love.

Recently, she was given the opportunity to give back once again.

“I had a private donor give me a lot of prom dresses with the understanding to give away 15. I go — let’s do it better.”

She is prepared to give out more than 2,000 prom dresses to high school seniors in need of financial assistance in the Omaha Public Schools system, along with a few more surrounding school districts.

Ensuring all students can go to their senior prom without financial barriers.

“The light turns on. It’s beautiful,” Terri said. “The girls start crying and go, ‘Oh we didn’t think we were going to go.’”

Oh, they will be going — and going in style.

Terri’s message is simple — together “we can move mountains.”

The list of those eligible is very confidential and school counselors aren’t allowed to advertise the giveaway.

So, if your OPS high school senior wants to go to the prom, have them visit their school counselor, who can then give them a certificate to get the dress if they qualify.

You can also reach out directly to Cinderella's Formal Gown Rental for more information, just click here.