Assistant to the Editor of Production
Senior Maddy Van Heusen vowed to wear a dress every day this December, through the bitter cold and snow, for the Dressember Foundation. The Dressember Foundation strives to raise funds to end human trafficking and the exploitation of women. Participants spread awareness by wearing dresses each day in December.
The 2015 Dressember movement was Van Heusen’s first time participating in the event. Van Heusen first heard of Dressember through friends at her church that encouraged her to join the cause. “I’m participating in Dressember because I believe in everyday advocacy,” says Van Heusen via her fundraising page. “Every day I have the opportunity to get up, go to school, and have control of my life. Every day, women around the world do not have such opportunities.”
Though Van Heusen is the only current Jamesville-DeWitt student involved in Dressember, several students as well as teachers from Fayetteville-Manlius are also raising awareness for trafficking.
Van Heusen spread awareness via Twitter and other social media, as well as by wearing various dresses throughout December, something a bit out of place in Syracuse’s cold weather. By wearing such attire during winter, Van Heusen hoped people would begin to ask her about her outfit choice. At this moment, she would explain Dressember and their goal, and ask people to donate.
Although no other J-D student participated in Dressember, several J-D students and teachers contributed to Van Heusen’s fundraiser, including counselor Amy LeStrange, as well as seniors Julia Skevel and Emily Greenway.
Van Heusen’s initial $300 individual goal was reached on her first day of fundraising. “I kept raising my goal by $100 increments, and people kept donating to my fund,” says Van Heusen. On the final day of her fundraiser, Van Heusen had raised $701 in total for the Dressember Foundation. “It feels really gratifying that doing something as simple as wearing a dress could be so rewarding to those impacted by human trafficking,” says Van Heusen.
Considering the recent success of campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and No-Shave November, the increased popularity of Dressember comes at no surprise. Similar to how participants of both the Ice Bucket Challenge spread awareness of ALS by dumping a cold bucket of water on their head and participants of No-Shave November grow out their facial hair to raise awareness of prostate cancer, those involved in Dressember get physically involved by wearing dresses. “It’s more than just spreading a word. The actual physical act of wearing a dress elevates the fundraiser to a higher level,” says Van Heusen.
Dressember was started in 2009 by Blythe Hill as a then-quirky style challenge among her friends. As the month-long event became more widespread among people across the globe, via social media, Hill decided to turn the challenge into something more: a campaign to end the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women.
In 2013, the Dressember Foundation partnered with the International Justice Mission, a global organization that rescues and recovers victims of human trafficking, and now 100 percent of the organization’s funds are donated to the IJM, says Van Heusen.
In the three years since its founding, the funds raised by the Dressember Foundation have more than doubled each year. In its first year of fundraising, Dressember had 1,233 registered participants in 32 countries across six continents, who collectively raised over $165,000. Currently, the 2015 campaign has generated $883,482, just short of their $1 million goal, says the Dressember Foundation’s website. The campaign will continue through January.
But for some, Dressember goes beyond ending human trafficking and the exploitation of women. “At its core, Dressember is an embracing of the inherent freedom and femininity of all women,” says the Dressember Mission Statement. “70 percent of the victims of human trafficking are women and children, so Dressember is considered a feminist movement because it empowers women around the world who may feel forgotten or that their rights have been taken away,” says Van Heusen.
Dressember isn’t just for women, however. Men can participate by wearing bowties each day of December.
If Van Heusen has inspired you, please visit http://www.dressember.org for more information on how to donate.