Prom night can strike fear in the hearts of parents and youth alike.
While it should be a joyous time, there are social expectations that go along with it: dates, parties — and the usually very expensive crucial outfit.
Enter the Education Foundation of Niagara’s Prom Project Niagara. Grade 8 and Grade 12 students from across the region, regardless of school or board, can visit one of three locations on April 6 between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and don an outfit of their choice.
Nicole Smith of EFN says there are “hundreds and hundreds” of outfits to choose from; used and new, modern and retro. “Over 70 racks of items — shoes too.”
“It’s the best day; it’s so much fun,” says the event and communications officer. “It’s like a big shopping mall day for free with the inventory we have. Some of it is brand spanking new. They can see what fits them and what they like.”
The on-site volunteers are happy to guide people through the racks and help them find the perfect look. There are even seamstresses in place to make alterations on the spot.
Local and corporate sponsors have also made it possible to primp for the big night with cologne and make-up; coupons for hair salons; corsages and boutonnieres, and dry cleaning.
“It’s all free, they get to keep everything,” says Smith. “I like to tell them, ‘This is not the only time you’re going to need a suit.’”
The event even supplies jewellery and ties. “By the time we’re done, they’re all ready to go,” she says.
“Kids walk out smiling, confident, knowing they’re going to look good.The volunteers come back year after year because it’s so rewarding.”
The annual event started in 2009, serving 34 students in its first year. They now expect between 400 and 500 participants to show up at one of the three locations involved: DSBN Academy in St. Catharines, Beamsville Secondary School, or the Fort Erie Race Track.
“This primarily started to help low-income families, but now we’re finding middle-income people are coming too, because it’s hard to make ends meet,” says Smith.
“Prom Project Niagara believes graduation and prom are life-defining occasions for students, and that every student deserves to have their moment in the sun, regardless of their financial restrictions,” says Laura Byers, executive director of the Education Foundation of Niagara.
Donations are still welcome, and can be dropped off at any PenFinancial credit union location, or other spots listed on the Foundation website.
Clothing will also be accepted all day at the event.
The event is also still seeking volunteers.
The Education Foundation of Niagara is a registered charity that supports DSBN students in financial need.
For more information, to donate, or to participate, visit www.efnniagara.ca or contact Nicole Smith at 905-641-2929 ext. 37710 or firstname.lastname@example.org.