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Summerside woman starts group to help high school students during prom season

Sarah Gillis airs out some of the prom dress donations she has received since starting Prom Project P.E.I. The group is designed to collect prom dress donations and provide other services to high school students to help alleviate financial stress.
Sarah Gillis airs out some of the prom dress donations she has received since starting Prom Project P.E.I. The group is designed to collect prom dress donations and provide other services to high school students to help alleviate financial stress. - Millicent McKay

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I.  It’s only January, but prom season is already on the mind of a Summerside woman who wants to give high school girls the ability to enjoy their prom without financial worry.

Sarah Gillis, a former Three Oaks Senior High School (TOSH) student remembers enjoying her prom, but she also recalls paying for her prom dress despite the high price tag of $500.

“I loved my prom. And everyone should have the opportunity to experience it, without the financial stress of attending it. I paid for my dress myself, but if I didn’t have a part-time job, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the dress I wanted,” said the now 26-year-old.

With that in mind, Gillis has formed Prom Project P.E.I., an organization aimed at collecting prom dress donations, hosting pop-up shops as well as providing hair and make-up services on prom days.

Gillis said the idea formed while driving to her job at a Charlottetown hotel where she manages events.

“I did a bit of research on the idea because there is a similar initiative in Ontario. Then I decided to write down exactly what I wanted this [initiative] to be and put it on Facebook.”

The Facebook group, Prom Project P.E.I. was started in November.

“We’ve had a lot of support – not just donation-wise but also people offering to help.”

Sarah Gillis airs out some of the prom dress donations she has received since starting Prom Project P.E.I. The group is designed to collect prom dress donations and provide other services to high school students to help alleviate financial stress.
Sarah Gillis airs out some of the prom dress donations she has received since starting Prom Project P.E.I. The group is designed to collect prom dress donations and provide other services to high school students to help alleviate financial stress.

Right now, there are four drop off locations: TOSH, Kensington Intermediate Senior High School (KISH), Westisle Composite High School and Charlottetown Rural High School.

When the schools are open, donors can take dresses to the office for drop off.

Gillis said she is most excited for the pop-up shops.

“They will be in Summerside and Charlottetown and open to anyone on the Island. Girls can come in, if they want to try on a dress, they have that option, if there is a dress that needs alterations, we make the arrangements to have that done and then we’ll also take hair and make-up appointments for anyone who might want them on prom day," she said. “Everything is a completely free service.”

In the future, Gillis said she would like to expand into collecting tuxedo and suit donations.

Johanna Reid, a KISH graduate, is one of the volunteers with Prom Project P.E.I.

“It’s a great initiative. When I was in high school, I loved prom and like Sarah said, everyone should be able to experience it,” said Reid, 23.

“When you look at it, the cost of the dress and the hair and the makeup can become a lot of for a student. It’s really going to make a difference for those who might need that extra help.”

- Johanna Reid

“When you look at it, the cost of the dress and the hair and the makeup can become a lot of for a student. It’s really going to make a difference for those who might need that extra help.”

Reid said she didn’t have a large budget when she was looking for a prom dress in 2013.

She said she is looking forward to volunteer with the not-for-profit Prom Project P.E.I. and seeing the benefits it will have for those who need it.

Currently there are no set dates for the pop-up shops.

For information about how to donate and more visit the Prom Project P.E.I. Facebook page or email Gillis at promprojectpei@gmail.com.


RELATED: Three Oaks Senior High School students attending prom dazzle at dusk
 

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