Out & About: Cinderella dances with Prince Charming at the 92nd annual Cinderella Ball
Dressed in a white ball gown and long white gloves, each debutante pauses to curtsy in front of the ballroom filled with family and friends, thereby making her formal entrance into society.
This moment is cherished at the annual Cinderella Ball, an evening where young ladies are presented to society on the arms of their fathers in age-old traditional cotillion style.
This long-standing event celebrated its 92nd anniversary Jan. 27 inside the grand ballroom at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh where 17 debutantes were in the spotlight.
They shared a waltz with their fathers, while 450 guests looked on, some with tears in their eyes at this milestone happening before them.
The debutantes — all seniors in high school — were applauded for their charity work — women — 724 total volunteer hours — at the Children's Hospital of UPMC.
The debutantes are: Isabel Shafer Calihan, Sydney Elaine Cleveland-Datesman, Lauren Helen Davies, Lauren Elizabeth Delie, Charlotte Bentley Everett, Eliza Babcock Fisher, Corinne Marie Heberle, Anna Caterina Jovin, Cara Mia Levicoff, Willis Shaw Munroe, Leelah Mazal Ohayon, Lilly Rose Sacchini, Jayme Lyn Santoro, Megan Lauren Stafford, Emma Pippin Thai, Kennedy Alexis Wilson and Eliza Grace Worrall.
"It was such a special evening celebrating a long and rich tradition in Pittsburgh," said Everett, a first-generation debutante who attends Shady Side Academy. "Having my dad present me is something I will remember for my whole life, and participating in Cinderella alongside some of my closest friends while raising money for Children's Hospital has been one of the most rewarding and fun experiences."
Stafford, a first-generation debutante from Fox Chapel High School, was recognized as the Cinderella Women's Committee scholarship winner for her more than 40 hours of volunteer work. She thanked everyone involved with the special evening.
"As someone interested in pursuing a career in medicine, the opportunity to volunteer with Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh was incredibly enlightening," Stafford said.
As is customary, guests eagerly awaited the announcement of Prince Charming — Connor Thompson Jones — a young bachelor from Alison Park, and junior at Connecticut College, whose name is a well-kept secret until he makes his formal entrance at the ball. He and his brothers, Tanner and Leland, have served on the floor committee and have been escorts several times, most recently with their sister, Sydney, who was a debutante in 2016.
He then randomly selected Wilson as his Cinderella, by pulling her name from a beautifully decorated pumpkin before whisking her to the dance floor. It was the perfect present — her birthday was the day before.
"This was a total surprise," said Wilson, of Cranberry, who is a student at Shady Side Academy and first-generation debutante. "I was excited about the evening, and knew it would be a special night, but then when I was chosen as Cinderella, well I couldn't believe it because I didn't think it would be me. But that's the magic of Cinderella — you have to believe."
The Cinderella Ball is Pittsburgh's oldest fundraiser and the second-longest running debutante ball in the United States.
This year's ball chairs were Brette Rupert Gillman (with Kyle) and Natalie Robertshaw Kelley (with Brendan). Also attending and representing the charity wasJ. Gregory Barrett, president and chief development officer of Pittsburgh Hospital Foundation, as well as Erin Werkmeister, volunteer coordinator for the ball. Greg Brown (Pirates' broadcaster) served as the master of ceremonies.
Entertainment by The Rick Purcell Big Band and then The Move Makers got the crowd on the dance floor — until the stroke of midnight.
Next year's charity will be the Pittsburgh Ballet.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.