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Marissa helps prom dreams come true
Tara Kriletich looks over a rack of prom dresses to make sure that everything is in order Saturday morning at Marissa’s Closet – a non-profit organization that aims to outfit all young women with prom dresses regardless of their financial situation. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
RIPON – Melinda Shaw did her best to keep her composure as she maneuvered her way through the vacant Ripon Drug and Gift building on Main Street on Saturday.

With racks of prom dresses everywhere, and a handful of girls modeling off their favorite pieces as they welcomed young women into the makeshift store, Shaw couldn’t help but think of her daughter Marissa McLeod who passed away in December.

Before her untimely death, Marissa had always wanted to create something where every young woman would have the opportunity to wear the dress of their dreams to their senior prom – negating the financial aspect that normally accompanies the expensive gowns that are most often only worn once.

Dubbed “Marissa’s Closet,” the event – which is scheduled to take place every month – drew dozens of young women from throughout the area on Saturday morning to pick from more than 1,400 prom dresses that ran the gamut from traditional sleek to elaborate and frilly.

“When Marissa first came up with this idea, she wanted to get 700 prom dresses and we’ve been able to double that – it’s amazing the outpouring of support that we’ve received from businesses and the community,” said a choked up Shaw. “She never wanted a girl to be able to go without a prom dress because she couldn’t afford it. And a piece of her goes along with every dress that a girl happens to select – keeping her memory and her vision alive.”

And it’s not just local girls that Marissa hopes to benefit through her unique program.

Visitors on Saturday came from as far away as the Bay Area, Melinda has plans to expand Marissa’s Closet beyond the borders of California – giving everybody a chance to take part in the rite of passage that is the senior prom.

The giving even goes beyond the dresses that line the racks.

“If there’s a girl that can’t afford the bids, we have fundraisers that will help cover that,” Shaw said. “We want to make this open to everybody, regardless of their financial situation.”

Mackenzie Huff – a friend of Marissa’s – made the trip Saturday from Pleasanton to lend a helping hand to the girls who were searching for the perfect dress that will make the night one of the most memorable of their young lives.

While she undoubtedly misses her friend, Huff is proud to be able to carry on such a selfless legacy created by someone she cared for dearly.

“I think it’s such a wonderful thing that Marissa started, and we’re carrying it for her,” she said. “We’re grateful to the people who donated their dresses and the business that have stepped up and made this a possibility. It’s something that isn’t going away anytime soon.”

For more information about the organization, visit Marissa’s Closet on