Windermere High freshman creates nonprofit, collects dresses for girls in need

Windermere High freshman Sasha Graddy founded the nonprofit You Don’t Have To Miss A Beat to provide dresses for formal dances to girls in need.

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  • | 4:23 p.m. March 20, 2019
Windermere High freshman Sasha Graddy is collecting dresses for formal dances to distribute to high-school girls who otherwise cannot afford them.
Windermere High freshman Sasha Graddy is collecting dresses for formal dances to distribute to high-school girls who otherwise cannot afford them.
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With prom season fast approaching, every department store soon will be filled with a sea of dress choices for high-school girls everywhere.

But with many of those dresses also coming with a hefty price tag, it can be hard for some girls to afford the attire typical of formal dances.

Cue new nonprofit You Don’t Have To Miss A Beat, founded by Windermere High freshman Sasha Graddy.



Graddy, 14, was excited to attend her first high-school formal dance last fall. It was September, and homecoming was right around the corner. She and her friends were looking forward to their first homecoming dance, but that excitement was tinged with sadness — one friend couldn’t attend the dance because she couldn’t afford a ticket or a dress.

“The idea came to mind because I was thinking of how to get her to come with us,” Sasha said. “I thought of us all pitching in money to help, but it occurred to me that there are other girls just like her who couldn’t go because of the cost. I was thinking about a charity (centered on) collecting dresses. I thought it’d be a good idea to make a nonprofit and have my mom help with it getting approved by the government.”

Sasha’s mother, Miryam Graddy, worked with her daughter first to come up with a name for the nonprofit. 

“It’s a play on words,” Sasha said. “I thought it was a very clever thing because the dancing, formal dresses…it was cute. You can be included with everyone. I felt bad for my friend because she couldn’t come with us. ‘You Don’t Have To Miss A Beat’ just seemed like the perfect name for it.”

Sasha also is artistic and came up with the logo herself. The logo consists of five girls wearing dresses, and they are drawn on a slant to form the shape of a crown. A ribbon spanning the bottom of the logo reads the nonprofit’s name.

The process of getting her idea approved a nonprofit took a few months. Paperwork had to go through both the federal and state governments, which are tasked with approving or disapproving a nonprofit request based on the organization’s mission.

Everything was finally verified and approved as of a few weeks ago, and YDHTMB now is an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.



Sasha’s organization is set up to work directly with school administration, which helps with determining the students of qualified need and facilitates the process.

YDHTMB is currently hosting a dress drive prior to prom season. All dresses of any style or size are accepted, and donations are tax-deductible. There is a large donation box in the front office where dresses can be dropped off, and Sasha and her mother are willing to work with donors who may not be able to get their dresses to the school.

Earlier in March, Sasha met with the school’s PTSO and other parent groups explaining her nonprofit’s mission and how it works.

When Sasha receives the donated dresses, she inventories them by taking pictures and including size measurements. She creates an information sheet for each dress and keeps it in a binder.

Sasha wanted to ensure that the dress-selection process was fair and protected the privacy of the girls who will be using them. She asked her friend who wasn’t able to attend the last dance about what her preferences were and decided on the current process. Additionally, Windermere High administration is in charge of determining qualified need.

“I don’t know who the girls are — only the selective members of the school (administration) know so it’s not embarrassing for them,” she said. “I give the binder to a school administrator and they meet with the girls individually. The girls can select whatever dress they want from the binder, school administration gives me that paper, I bring the dresses and they get it to the girls. After the dance the girls return the dress and we get them cleaned so they’re reusable for the next dance.”

In addition to Sasha and her mother collecting and providing the dresses, the school also will pitch in by providing tickets to the girls in need.

“The dance is in May, and all communications say we’re doing the drive through April 5,” Miryam Graddy said. “That’ll give her enough time to clean the dresses, photograph them, put them in the book and get them to administration in time so they have time for the girls to look through them. For this high school they do the dance at a nice hotel and it’s like $100 a ticket. It’s really nice that the school is willing to (provide tickets).”



Thus far, Sasha has collected close to 20 dresses. Though her current drive ends April 5, she will be accepting donations of both dresses and financial contributions year-round. Donated funds help take care of the cleaning fees for the dresses and also can be used to purchase gently used dresses to add to the inventory. She hopes to collect enough dresses of different sizes and styles that every girl who needs one will have one.

“We are doing the drive right now to get ready for prom, and past that we’ll probably do a drive for homecoming,” Miryam Graddy said. “If people want to donate outside of those windows we won’t turn them down.”

Although Sasha is only a freshman and will be the main person running YDHTMB for a few years, she hopes to be able to pass her leadership down to younger girls by the time she is a senior and preparing to graduate from Windermere High.

“I’m going to be the one who does all these steps until I graduate,” she said. “I’m hoping I can leave a legacy at the school and I want to pass it down to a girl in a younger grade than me so that it can just start a tradition at the school. It’s a new school and might be something fun that they can carry on.”

For Sasha, knowing she will be facilitating opportunities to attend high-school dances other for girls like her friend is rewarding in and of itself.

“Knowing I’m making a difference is one of the most fulfilling things,” she said. “It makes me happy to help people. It feels good knowing that I’m making a change for these girls and they’re probably really happy that they can come to a dance with their friends.”


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