Excited teens lined up outside New Beginnings Saturday morning, waiting for the doors to open so they could find the perfect dress for upcoming proms and graduations.
The local youth agency hosted its 12th annual “Say Yes to the Prom Dress” giveaway, with more than 2,000 donated dresses on display for teens to peruse, try on and hopefully select one for prom or graduation.
“For us, it’s really important to have this event because we know how these rituals, these special events in high school, are so meaningful to people,” said New Beginnings executive director Mary Kay Morand. “And in our community, we want to eliminate the barriers and ensure all youth are included.”
Girls sifted through the many dresses, hunting for the perfect one for the big night.
With such a huge selection, dresses were available in all sizes and styles. But the first to go are typically those with an extra flare.
“It seems every year that the dresses that go quickly are the ones with the most sparkle,” said Morand. “It kind of makes sense that people want to feel really special.”
The showcase offers brand new prom and graduation dresses donated from stores around the city, along with some gently used dresses.
Donations come in throughout the year. New Beginnings also hosted a dress drive for local youth in January to add to the collection.
The first year of the event, they offered 30 dresses. It has since grown to more than 2,000 selections for young women to choose from.
“I think it’s a combination of things, said Morand. “I think the need in our community continues to grow and as a result of that we’ve continued to expand the event.”
The giveaway also offered a jewellery table for girls to pick out a piece to match their dress.
Along with dress shopping, youth were encouraged to take part in a meaningful art activity.
“We really try to promote beauty from within, and that it’s not just what’s on the outside but the inside that counts,” said Morand.
The art activity was set up with leftover dresses that were cut up into smaller pieces. The youth came in to write positive messages on the fabric pieces and decorate them to pin each piece of fabric together and create a large mural with all of their messages.
“I’m going to ask them to maybe think of a phrase or something that they would tell themselves,” said Katie Colborne, an art specialist at New Beginnings. “Some words when they need to find that beauty within and that they can have other people read it too and help them out.”
Colborne noted the importance of getting those positive messages and finding that inner beauty.
“I don’t think we hear those messages really,” Colborne said. “So sometimes they need to come from us.”