The prom is the annual rite of passage for teenage girls. It marks the end of their senior year of high school.

It has also increased in price over years. Adding up the costs of the latest evening gowns, shoes and bling, hair and makeup can make the prom out of reach for many girls.

“Costs can be astronomical and it’s become really competitive,” said Anette Farrow, one of four local women who run Barrie’s Prom Glitz and its younger counterpart Grad Day. “You can’t have the same dress as other people because they’ll be shown on Facebook. We can’t avoid it but it does put pressure on the girls. That’s where we come in – we provide them with a gown and they can go to the proms and look stunning.”

Prom Glitz serves financial challenged Grade 12 girls with new, clean, up-to-date gowns during the annual Boutique Days, April 13-15, in exchange for a donation. It features around 300 dresses. Farrow and her fellow volunteers are also helping out financially challenged Grade 8 students with a Grad Day event on June 1. Shorter dresses tend to be the more popular choice for younger girls.

The Kozlov Shopping Centre has partnered with the event since its inception by a local high school student who wanted to help her peers.

Some elements have changed over the years. Now, instead of a week-long event, Boutique Days run from Friday night to Sunday. The girls can book an appointment time to try on dresses. A personal shopper, a volunteer, is provided to help them. Any walk-ins have to wait their turn.

In addition to a variety of dress sizes, Prom Glitz also features some accessories and shoes. The event draws 100-150 girls each year, from across Simcoe County and beyond.

The girls don’t take it for granted. One grateful recipient said, “Thank you so much – you guys have blessed me more than you know.” Another girl, thrilled with her dress, said it was perfect.

Farrow started volunteering with co-founders Robin Hadfield and her daughter Kelly. She felt it was a meaningful way to give back and liked that it had a built-in element of fun.

“I tried it for the Boutique Days and I just loved it,” she said, adding that the girls blossomed with some bling and high heeled shoes.  “It’s amazing. The mom or dad comes with them quite often and it’s always been a very, very positive reaction. I’ve had parents and the girls cry. One, in particular, was absolutely stunning – they come in sweat pants and we had her looking like a princess. She just thrilled. They look like movie stars on a red carpet.”

Some girls pay it forward and give the gowns back for another student to wear next year. The gowns come from donations and local stores such as Helen’s Bridal shop in Barrie. Clean up-to-date new or nearly new dresses are always needed.

To donate, volunteer or book an appointment, visit www.promglitz.ca or email promglitzegowns@gmail.com.

Photo: Trying on a dress at Prom Glitz

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