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Preparing for the Ball of a Lifetime

"He is good!" said Tavetta Patterson, 30, of Gary, Ind., of the Gary Life Education Initiative, an organization that works with impoverished teenage girls.

She had just gotten outfitted with a silver evening gown with a clutch bag and shoes to match.

"We left Gary yesterday, and it took us five hours to get here," she said. "It took us longer because we ran into some snow. At one point, we saw a FedEx truck laying in a ditch. But God brought us here safely. We stopped in Baltimore before we came on to Washington, because after He brought us here safely to receive this blessing, I wanted to stop in somebody's church and praise Him."

Patterson said she hopes the Obamas will surprise them by dropping in at the People's Ball, but even if they don't, she said, she and her group will go home with memories that will last a lifetime. "This is about learning how to dream and realizing that some dreams do come true," she said.

Pat Delfosse of Fontana, Calif., who is raising four grandchildren, three adopted children and a foster child on a limited income, said she found out about Stafford's program while surfing the Web for programs to benefit the foster parents she works with.

"I completed the application, then I forgot about it," she said. "Then we got a call saying we were coming! We're so happy to be here!"

As she shopped, her nieces, Tayah Love, 9, and Ashley Love, 13, found dresses with the help of National Urban League volunteers Julia Pollard of Clinton and Barbara Anderson of Arlington County.

"I am very, very, very excited, because I get to see the actual Barack Obama!" Tayah said, showing off the long, baby-pink ball gown she had chosen. "I cannot believe that!"

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