Christy Hirt is looking forward to distribution day, the day she will see dreams come true for a couple hundred young ladies graduating high school this year.
Thanks to the generosity of a steady stream of dress-bearing donors Saturday, the Prince George Dress Dreams project Hirt and her friend Mandy Paavola organized was a huge success.
Standing outside in the parking lot for two hours Saturday in front of the Shhh... boutique, Hirt and Paavola collected more than 100 formal dresses, as well as an assortment of shoes, tiaras, purses, and other accessories to be given to a select group of Grade 12 girls who could not otherwise afford them. They will wear their gowns this spring for their prom events.
"It's completely overwhelming, Prince George can be a really supportive community and I love that about Prince George," said Hirt. "The looks on their faces when they come for the dresses just makes it all worth it. They're tearing up and they are so happy because this is something they'd never be able to do."
Allison Lindemann dropped by to hand over a $600 dress her daughter wore only once, when she graduated in 2009. Dress Dreams emulates a program in Vancouver called the Cinderella Project and Lindemann was considering shipping the dress to Vancouver when she read about the local initiative in Friday's Citizen.
"It gives girls a chance to go to the prom and wear something nice," said Lindemann. "It's a good thing. I missed it last year and I'm glad they did it again. It's a good idea and I'm glad it's here in town."
Lana Schulli dropped by with a bridesmaid dress and matching pair of shoes she bought five years ago for a wedding that was cancelled. The dress, now worth about $200, has never been worn.
"Of course you want to help some poor girl who trying to graduate and can't pay for a dress," said Schulli. "Back when I graduated, dresses weren't $500. This is a great program."
Paavola used to live in Vancouver and volunteered as a makeup artist for the Cinderella Project and it was her idea to bring the program to Prince George when she returned to her hometown two years ago.
"We just decided we should start this on on our own and the response has been amazing," said Paavola. "We have two cars full of dresses. I'm blown away, I'm almost crying right now. My truck was full at 11:19 and we started at 11 o'clock.
"I know these gowns aren't cheap. The average dress we've had donated today is between $200 and $700 and they will go to some deserving girls who really deserve them and need them. They've worked hard and overcome so much adversity to graduate and this rewards them for their efforts."
Also involved in the Dress Dreams project are Elizabeth LaPrairie and School District 57 liaison Denee Wells, an English/psychology teacher at D.P. Todd secondary school.
All Dress Dreams recipients will be recommended by teachers, counsellors, student aid workers or any other member of the community who is not a relative. The group can be contacted through its Facebook page -- Prince George Dress Dreams or through email at pgdressdre...@yahoo.ca.
"Our only prerequisites are the student has to be graduating and in in [financial] need," said Paavola. "There are two times at graduation where they could wear the same dress. We're hoping if there are enough dresses that girls who need two dresses can go home with two dresses."
The dresses will be given out in March at a hotel ballroom yet to be determined.
Each girl will also receive a goodie bag containing makeup, body wash and deodorant. Paavola is hoping to eventually the program will expand and they will start collecting suits for graduating boys.