Reese Witherspoon Donates to Classroom Organization After Draper James Giveaway Sparks Criticism

Reese Witherspoon's Draper James company previously offered teachers a free dress giveaway, but supplies did not last long.

By Samantha Schnurr Apr 16, 2020 1:41 PMTags
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Reese Witherspoon is focusing on teachers amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Oscar-winning actress and Draper James founder has donated to DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization that allows donations to be mated directly to public school classroom projects. 

"Reese and Draper James have made a donation to DonorsChoose that will support all of our highest-need teachers in New Orleans, Atlanta, and Nashville, and many more throughout the country, as they work to educate their students while schools are closed," a spokesperson from the organization told E! News.

"These teachers will receive education funding grants they'll be able to spend on resources such as books, basic classroom supplies, art supplies, activity kits, and food, all shipped directly to their students' homes. When we surveyed our teachers, they estimated that 68% of their students don't have the essentials to continue learning at home, so these educational "care packages" will help bridge the gap in providing students resources they'd normally get at school."

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While Witherspoon's coronavirus relief efforts have been aimed at teachers, her company's last initiative did not go as expected. At the start of the month, the clothing brand announced that it wanted to give teachers a free dress. 

"Dear Teachers: We want to say thank you. During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children. To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress. To apply, complete the form at the link in bio before this Sunday, April 5th, 11:59 PM ET. (Offer valid while supplies last - winners will be notified on Tuesday, April 7th.)," the Instagram instructions read. The post also encouraged people to tag their "favorite educator" in the comments or forward the Instagram post to them, thereby further publicizing the giveaway. To apply, teachers were asked to upload a photo of their school ID as well as information about where and what they teach.  

However, while the offer quickly reached viral fame with further attention from morning news shows, according to The New York Times, the company only had 250 dresses to give away and had received nearly 1 million applications. Teachers who didn't receive a dress were sent a 30 percent discount code to the email address they submitted to apply. On social media, teachers expressed a mix of gratitude, confusion and disappointment. 

"We felt like we moved too quickly and didn't anticipate the volume of the response," Marissa Cooley, the senior vice president for brand marketing and creative at Draper James, told the Times. "We were really overwhelmed. It was way more volume than the company had ever seen. We expected the single-digit thousands."

"We were so excited to reward 250 teachers across the United States with a free dress," their Instagram account read on April 9. "We love educators all over the world for what they do everyday, but especially right now. See our Stories to see how teachers are navigating the world of remote learning. Email us at to share your stories with us."

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