Princess Moments at the Leeton Op Shop Debutante Ball

Deb ball - Flourish group photo.jpg

By Nikola Baratto

Attending the Leeton Community Op Shop Debutante Ball was a golden opportunity for people who access Flourish Australia services in Griffith and Leeton to be the centre of attention for one glorious night. 

Several participants, both women and men, from Flourish Australia put their beautiful ball gowns or smart suits on, tied and buckled their dancing shoes, and danced the night away in the company of their family, friends and their local community. 

Traditionally, Deb Balls involve young women being formally ‘presented’ to high society as being ready to marry. This Ball was a little more inclusive, taking in people all ages and backgrounds. It was a great excuse to get dolled up and boogie with their friends, family and members of the local community. 

Although Debutante Balls may have changed over the centuries, certain traditions haven’t. For instance, debutantes always wear beautiful, typically white ball gowns and their partners dress in smart suits, and it’s customary for ladies to ask males to the ball. 

This Deb Ball had a fundraising component in support of the Community Op Shop, and in return the Op Shop generously donated all of the ballgowns, suits, shoes and accessories that were required, ensuring that everybody looked their best and that nobody was left out. 

The local event enabled those that may not have had their “princess moment” to be given such an opportunity whilst fundraising for the local community op shop. 

Hair, Makeup & Fundraising

The local event enabled those that may not have had their “princess moment” to be given such opportunity whilst fundraising for the local community op shop. 

During the lead up to the event, many hours were spent practicing the dance routines, finding a ball gowns/ suits, shoes and accessories (generously donated by the local community op shop), and of course building  excitement for the night they have been eagerly waiting for. 

And before they knew it, their big day had arrived! 

Debutantes from Leeton, Narrandera and Griffith accessed hairdressers and make up artists in their local communities. In Griffith, for example, debutantes rallied up to the local TAFE where hairdresser, Tania Cavanagh, and makeup artists, Amanada Bordignon and Karen Snaidero, donated their time and skills to do the participants’ hair and makeup. Leeton and Narrandera debutantes accessed their local communities to get their hair and makeup done. 

An ABC reporter spent the day with the debutantes capturing every moment. Many participants were interviewed about their experience and this was later presented both in newspaper articles and on television television. Photos and comments spread through social media including the participants’ “No Drama” Facebook page. 

Kim Doss, who helped organise the event, certainly had inclusion in the front of her mind during the planning process.

“Everybody is special in their own right and each and every person deserves the opportunity to have a special moment to shine,” said Kim. “These ladies may never have had a princess moment, and tonight they’ll get their princess moment. The look on their face is enough to get goosebumps. To see them smile and say they feel like a princess is a prize second to none.” (Gorman, 2018)

Kim hopes that this annual event will continue to give more people the chance to have a night out they’ll never forget.

Movie Star treatment

The debutantes proceeded to the MIA (Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area), a Function Centre where they put their ball gowns, suits and shoes on and did any final touches. And then the flashing of the camera began with multiple photos taken of the debutantes. They were able to have them printed out and have as keep sakes for their amazing experience. 

The debutantes lined up with their partners and one by one walked out into the ball where they were greeted with applause and cheering from their family, friends and local community. 

“I feel like a movie star, like Nicole Kidman” said one very excited lady, Janice Pandolfo . (Gorman, 2018)

All standing in a circle, the lyrics “I found the love for me…” started and away they went. Dancing the steps, they had been practicing for weeks before the ball. Each person had a smile stretching from ear to ear and showed rhythm and joy in every step they took. 

Take your partners

Participants from Flourish Australia included Gail Cummings, who introduced the Mayor of Leeton and his wife on behalf of Flourish Australia, and helped with cutting the cake. 

“It’s a big day for all of us girls and it’s been really exciting,” Gail said, feeling happy and a little overwhelmed. “You like to feel special every now and again and have your make-up and hair done. It makes you feel much better.” (Gorman, 2018)

Other debutantes include Janice Pandolfo, who was partnered with her son Luigi Pandolfo, Lisa Talliano partnered with Griffith staff member Nadia Zilliotto, and Kathrine Zannotto partnered with Allen Signor. There were also Michelle Daniels from Griffith being partnered by Leeton staff member Colleen Willis, Rowan Merrylees from Griffith being presented by Craig Willis of Leeton, and Louise Carroll of Narrandera partnered with Garry Wilson of Leeton. Kate Atkins and her partner Darren Halse were both from Leeton.

Once the formal dancing and proceedings had finished, everyone continued to boogie for the rest of the night to the very talented local band Jiakamo Thief. Participant Allen Signor even managed to get the band to sing the “Hockey Pokey” song to which everyone got up and mastered the dance. 

Before they knew it, the ball come to an end. 

The list of new participants wanting to complete their debut next year started to develop that very night among the people watching their peers participate. It  is growing rapidly. 

The experience for each person in the debutante ball was incredible and all appreciated  the effort that has gone in to making their day be so magical. 

Making it happen 

Those who volunteered their time in preparing the ball, both in the lead up and on the day, made numerous comments on how grateful they are to have been a part of such as amazing event. The community supported everyone involved and were also thankful for their experience.  

Staff from Flourish Australia Griffith and Leeton want to extend our gratitude to all involved in organising such an amazing event. 

Also, a special thank you to staff members Colleen Willis and Nadia Ziliotto for making this night possible for all Flourish Australia participants involved. We could not have staff any more passionate and dedicated to supporting individuals to have a memorable recovery journey. 

(Additional material by Grant J Everett)


Gorman, V. (2018, June 6). Second-chance debutantes given their moment to shine at community ball. Retrieved from ABC News Riverina :

Flourish Australia Leeton, 18-22 Kurrajong Avenue LEETON 2705 

Flourish Australia Griffith, 108 B Yambil Street GRIFFITH NSW 2680 

1300 779 270

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