Gowns for Grads, a volunteer initiative by the Laura Milner White Committee, supplies Winnipeg girls with previously owned grad dresses and gowns.
In the last four years, more than 1,200 girls have participated in the program and dress donations are needed to meet the demand.
Gowns and dresses, as well as shoes and evening bags, can be dropped off at Polar Bear Rubber (1663 Burrows Ave.), LoLa Boutique (2090 Corydon Ave.), Ashland School (170 Ashland Ave.), Tamarack Clothing (80-166 Meadowood Dr.) and d.a. Niels Gourmet Kitchenware (485 Berry St.) until the first week of April 2015.
Graduates who register for the program (registration begins in January) will be able to select a dress during a three-day event at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg from April 28 to 30.
Gowns for Grads spokesperson Brooke Bouchard said the program has a large inventory of gowns and dresses but is always lacking in petite and plus sizes.
"Anything sizes four and under and anything plus size, 14 and over, we’re very happy to have those, because we don’t typically get as many of them," Bouchard said.
Bouchard said it’s also important that the dresses aren’t past their prime.
"You always hate to be too specific or too picky when you’re receiving donations, but having volunteered there for a few years I know exactly what the girls gravitate toward and it’s the really sparkly glam ball gown-styles dresses," Bouchard said.
"We want to offer a great selection, current styles, things a young girl would choose and we also have some young adult women because we do have some graduates from some adult education programs."
Grads for Gowns started at St. John’s High School in 2009, after staff realized many young women weren’t attending graduation because they didn’t have a gown to wear.
Bouchard said any graduating girl can participate in the Gowns for Grads, regardless of their social or economic status.
"We’re trying to reduce the stigma of participating in the program. No one needs to ask why anyone wants to participate, it doesn’t matter," Bouchard said.
Bouchard said 450 girls participated in the program last year, with 97 per cent of the girls finding a gown to their liking. She said the girls are always shocked at the selection of dresses available to them.
"We typically have about 1,500 dresses in there for them to choose from, so they’re quite overwhelmed," said Bouchard, noting that volunteers help the girls choose a gown, with alterations available on-site.
"They had no idea they would be able to select dresses of this calibre and quality. For the most part, the dresses are very high-end and only worn once. The girls are beyond overwhelmed and also beyond grateful. A lot will just stand there in the mirror and not even be able to believe that’s themselves they’re looking at."