Dressing Up in December: One Mesa Mom and Her Daughter get Fancy for a Cause


Guest Post by Kristen Benavides

December. The word alone springs a thousand juggling thoughts into any mom’s mind: how to balance holiday parties and special home dinners, buying presents and hand-making gifts, making every moment memorable and getting true rest. The to-do lists are endless and the pressure (whether real or put upon ourselves) can be overwhelming. So four years ago, I decided to do the unthinkable and I added one more thing on my holiday list: Dressember

Dressember is the seemingly simple concept of wearing a dress every single day for the month of December with the intention to raise money and awareness to fight against human trafficking. Funds go to multiple organizations like International Justice Mission and Youth Spark who work to fight trafficking through prevention, intervention, and protection. 

Dressember vets all their partnering organizations to make sure the money truly goes to those at risk, on the front lines, or recovering from trafficking. My four-year-old daughter and I wear dresses every day and make sure to intentionally share our #ootd to spark conversations which draw awareness to this intense issue, and hopefully raise money along the way. The movement started back in 2009 with one woman and since then has gone on to thousands of advocates around the world who have helped raise over $10 million within these past 10 years. 

I didn’t join until 2016 – the year I gave birth to my daughter, Ilyana. I have always had a spot in my heart to fight against trafficking and had done some volunteer work for local organization, StreetLightUSA, but had never taken it beyond there. Then my little girl came into the picture.

She crashed into our lives and was a force to be reckoned with from the beginning. I would look into her big, brown eyes and be blown away by how someone so little and young could have so much personality. When Dressember sign up time came around, my sister started a team (she had been advocating for years before me) and asked if I’d like to join. 

I thought and prayed about it while holding my sweet squish in my arms. Ilyana from the start has had a fire inside her. I’ve felt from the beginning that she will grow up and use her passion and tenacity to pave her very own, distinctive path in life. And what will I answer her when she looks at me with those big, brown eyes in 20 years and asks me what I did with all my time? What did I, her mother, do once I saw all the injustice around me? 

I joined.

And it was a struggle. As a first-time mom, the holidays already felt overwhelming and adding onto it being intentional about each day’s outfit felt so extra and silly at the time. 

But I did the work and continued to listen and learn. And what had started as something fun but slightly tedious had broken my heart open. The heartbreaking truth that all moms hold their babies and feel the fire within them. But not all moms get to keep those babies. Slavery and trafficking happens at all ages—to all genders. It is ugly and ruthless and invades so many industries (fashion, food, production, and more) that it can make you, one mom in the East Valley, feel defeated. 

But as we enter in our fourth year as a mother/daughter advocacy team, I’m excited—not defeated. Human trafficking has been spotlighted these past few months and there are many moms searching for tangible ways to help.

With the help of Dressember I have spent the past few years building an arsenal of information. Looking forward to this month, I know I’ll get to answer hard questions, correct misinformation, and challenge myself and those around me to be better. I get to explain to Ilyana how something small and simple can change the world – that she can change the world. 

If you’d like to learn more, donate, or even join my team (it’s never too late!) check out our page or feel free to reach out to me through social media!


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