Knox County student awarded prom dress in kindness essay contest

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A dynamic duo who recently won the WATE 6 On Your Side Hero Award is continuing to pay it forward.

After a big prom dress giveaway called “The Princess Project” which helped nearly 70 girls get prom dresses, Black Oak Heights Baptist Church Pastor Todd Stinnett and Deane Hill Hair Designers salon owner Lindsay Maples decided to start “The Kindness Project.”

They wanted to award one high school student her dream dress, compliments of The Gilded Gown boutique at Knoxville Center Mall, in a contest about the importance of being kind.

Previous story: Duo teams up to provide free prom dresses for Knox County teens

WATE partnered with them to ask junior and senior girls at Powell High School to let us know what kindness means to them, in the form of an essay. More than a dozen entries were received and the group met at the WATE studios to carefully read each one.

Each contained a special message about kindness, and it was tough to make a decision, but the decision was unanimous that the essay submitted by Becca Sheppard, 17, deserved top honors.

The exciting announcement was made at a special assembly at Powell.

The winner wrote a heartfelt essay on what kindness means to her.

“When I think of kindness, several different things come to mind. Like most people, I’d like to believe I am a generally kind person, but I also believe I am a kind person because of all the kind people I’ve been blessed with in my life. One of the most impactful acts of kindness I’ve ever experienced happened a few months ago in the bathroom of the Panera I worked at. I was upset over some mean comments from a coworker following some difficult customers and I went to the bathroom crying, and that’s when I met Jackie. Unlike most people would have, including myself, Jackie stopped to check on me. She didn’t just ask if I was alright, she stopped me and hugged me and prayed for me, in a time when I needed it most, without knowing any of the problems I was facing at the time. On her way out she handed me her number on an old receipt and told me to call her if I ever need anything, the kindness that came from this total stranger completely changed the way I see others. Months later, I still think about her almost everyday, and her old receipt remains in my bible. The kindness she showed me in such a seemingly small way has translated into so many different aspects of my life, and has encouraged me to show kindness to anyone and everyone I can. The situation also showed me that no matter how terrible the world may seem sometimes, a little kindness can change everything.

To me, true kindness is the willingness to help a total stranger without knowing their situation or expecting anything in return, much like The Princess Project is doing- so thank you. Kindness really is contagious. ”

Sincerely,

Rebecca Sheppard
Student at Powell High School

Becca didn’t expect to be offered a new gown for prom, but this kindhearted girl deserves it, and The Gilded Gown graciously agreed to provide her with a shopping spree for the dress of her dreams. They wanted to share the message that a kind heart is even more beautiful than any colorful gown or sparkling jewelry.

“I feel like a lot of people are not used to kindness, so if we pay it forward and be kind to each other, then it might inspire them to do better,” said stylist Emily Muse.

“We just love spreading the love around basically, and want to make girls feel good about themselves and we love to find dresses for them that make them feel great,” said Gilded Gown manager Grace Alexander.

The winning dress is a stunning choice for a young lady who will never forget the Kindness Project and the heroes behind it.

“I’m so thankful,” Becca said. “I just can’t wait. It’s going to be a great night.”

Becca is going to prom with her boyfriend and a big group of friends. Most are recipients of gowns donated through the Princess Project.

The WATE 6 On Your Side Heroes are doing even more for the girls. They’re providing free hair and makeup for prom all day May 6, the date of Powell High School’s prom.

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