Dress lending program to help ease grad financial burden

A new program at HJ Cody School is aiming to ease the financial burden of graduating high school by providing graduation and prom dresses

HJ Cody career assistant Mandi Hyatt with one of the dresses she’s collected for the school’s new grad/prom dress lending program.

A new program at HJ Cody School is aiming to ease the financial burden of graduating high school by providing graduation and prom dresses to students in need.

But organizers need the community’s help, and are asking for donations of gently-used prom dresses within one or two years old.

The more dresses received, the wider range of students the program is able to help, said HJ Cody career assistant Mandi Hyatt, who created the program.

“We’re hoping that we can possibly just have a selection here at the school to be able to help students who for some reason can’t afford one,” she said. “I just want all students to have the same positive experience, and to feel included and supported. This is one way that we could help do that.”

Hyatt said girls spend upwards of $500 on dresses for the occasion. That’s a figure she feels not all students and parents can or should have to spend.

“(Costs are) just kind of growing and growing,” she said. “If you can cut them back, cut them back, and we just thought that hopefully for those students that can’t keep up to that, then we would be able to assist.”

The program is currently in its formative stages, but Hyatt already has several dresses in the collection. While graduation isn’t until June, she’s hoping donations will begin arriving soon as many girls begin buying grad dresses in January. Others, she said, have already bought theirs.

Students who wish to borrow a dress for the occasion will be able to submit a request in private, she added.

A similar program has been running successfully in Olds for the past several years, and provided the inspiration for the program at HJ Cody.

Hyatt said the school has typically held “one or two” spare dresses for students in previous years, and would be happy if the program supported even just a small amount of students in future years.

“If we can help two or three girls a year, that’s amazing for us,” she said.

Currently, the program is focusing on providing dresses for girls, though it may expand in the future to encompass tuxedos for boys. The latter are typically rented at a cost around $150, said Hyatt.

Those who wish to donate a dress to the program may drop it off at the school or arrange to have it pickup by contacting Hyatt at 403-887-2412 or mhyatt@chinooksedge.ab.ca.

Monetary donations to the program are also being accepted, and may help fund tuxedo rentals for boys, or hair and makeup for girls.

Hyatt stressed that the program — which organizers are calling ‘Belle of the Ball’ — is open to all students, regardless of financial standing.

“We’re not going to discriminate,” she said. “If somebody comes to us wanting help and we can help them, then we’re going to help them.

“We want them to know we’re here, we care, and we want to make it a memorable day.”