EDMONTON — Call her a modern day fairy godmother. A Spruce Grove woman is helping outfit local teens with a gown, shoes and all the fancy fixings for graduation — a bit ironic for someone who didn’t go to her own.
“I didn’t attend my own grad because I was new to the school. I didn’t know many people.
“I always regretted that a little, so I didn’t want any girl to have the same regret,” Taylor-Deanne Williams said while surrounded by gowns in every colour of the rainbow.
The Alberta Strong: Grad Dress Project only launched about a week and a half ago, and already Williams has received over 50 donated dresses.
They range from princess ball gowns to sleek sheaths. There’s a coral tulle number dotted with gems; a golden gown with an embroidered halter top and ruching throughout the skirt; even a short purple satin and black lace dress that was originally worn in a wedding party.
BELOW: Gallery of some of the dresses donated to the Alberta Strong: Grad Dress Project
“We’re getting more donations every day. They’re all from Parkland, Leduc, Edmonton. We’ve had interest to mail a dress as far away as Australia.”
In addition to dresses and accessories, several professionals have offered up their services, including a seamstress. “We’ve also had about five hairdressers, two make up artists and three photographers,” said Williams, adding a graphic designer made a logo for her Facebook page, where the project originated. At the end of February she posted an offer on a local buy and sell Facebook page.
“I just had one dress. And I wanted to donate that one dress and provide the complete grad experience. So it snowballed from there.
“I got asked if I could find homes for other dresses, and I said I would find a way. And this is my way.”
Donations have also been made to a Go Fund Me account. The money will go towards dry cleaning, purchasing banquet tickets, and other costly elements of graduation.
Paying for prom really adds up. Aside from the dress, there are the shoes, hair styling, make up, not to mention the amount some spent on things like professional photography and limo transportation. For many teens their graduation is a momentous life event that demands pomp and circumstance.
A Visa Canada annual survey found Canadian households with teenagers planned to spend $804 on grad in 2014. In 2015, the survey found found families intended to scale back to an average of $508. Parents with teenage daughters planned to spend more ($424) than those with teenage sons ($278). Moms were also more likely to outspend dads. The 2016 survey is expected later this spring.
Williams was motivated by seeing the struggles of friends and family who have been hit hard by the recession. She has steady work as a pipeliner, but knows other families are not as fortunate.
Cinderella’s Closet in Edmonton offers a similar service. It accepts new or gently used formal dresses (no older than two years), shoes, purses, jewellery and unopened cosmetics. The organization accept referrals from teachers, social caseworkers or guidance counsellors.
Williams said who gets a dress from her will be determined on a case-by-case basis, but she doesn’t have specific criteria or eligibility factors.
“We want to make this barrier-free for girls to access.”
Parkland County has five schools that go up to Grade 12, including Spruce Grove Composite High School, St. Peter the Apostle Catholic High School and Memorial Composite High School.
“[Parkland County] is where we are currently focusing most of our efforts,” said Williams.
“However, we want to go to a lot of the smaller communities throughout Alberta that don’t have access to a lot of the big city resources.”
Williams plans to have a “shopping day” at the beginning of April for graduating teens to come choose a dress. Those interested are asked to contact her in advance, to make sure their size is available.
There are two places donations can be dropped off: Eternal Ink Tattoo on Whyte Avenue (10015 82 Ave NW, Edmonton) and 3 B’s Flowers in Stony Plain (#106 – 4807 44th Avenue, Stony Plain.) You can also connect with Williams via Facebook.
With files from Patricia Kozicka, Global News
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