Hilton Head Island Realtor Maria Skrip remembers the pomp and thrill of attending her first Marine Corps ball.
She also remembers the cost.
"When you're all done with the dress, the shoes, the hair, the tickets, the hotel room -- it is easily upwards of $500 to $600," said Skrip, who co-owns Re/Max Island Realty with her husband, Chris, a retired Marine. "It can get very expensive, and some Marine wives just can't afford it."
So she has launched "Operation Fairy Gown Mother," a new program aimed at collecting gowns and other formal wear for local military wives attending the upcoming galas, typically held in late October and early November to commemorate the Corps' birthday on Nov. 10.
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"This is something that is very near and dear to my heart," she said. "I've been talking about doing this since earlier this year. I see these men and women every day, and they are so much a part of this community. I wanted to do something to give back to them."
The dresses can be dropped off Tuesday at the firm's Bay Street office in Beaufort, on Wednesday at its offices on William Pope Drive in Bluffton and on Thursday at the Re/Max office on Main Street on Hilton Head Island.
Skrip said the items she collects will be given to Marine Corps Community Services, which will distribute them to local Marine wives during the organization's annual Operation Ball Gown event Sept. 6 at the Officers' Club at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
Skrip said she hopes that by reducing some of the costs involved, the women will be able to enjoy the event as much as she did.
"You never forget going to the Marine Corps Ball, especially that first time," she said. "The Marine Corps band plays, and all of the men are in their dress blues. It is quite the event. I want to help these ladies have a great time and not have to worry about how much it costs."