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Cambridge students get some help with the high price of prom

Cambridge generosity was on display Saturday afternoon during the Silverheights Neighbourhood Association’s Prom Outfit Event at St Gabriel Catholic Elementary School in Hespeler

Making it to prom is a benchmark experience for many students, but for some it is out of reach not because they haven’t earned it, but because they can’t afford it.

“We’ve been collecting prom dresses and prom outfits since about the beginning of March,” said Ceceillia Keyes, program coordinator for the Silverheights Neighbourhood Association. “The community has come together and donated more than 300 outfits.”

Keyes and her team of volunteers curated the collection and on Saturday transformed the gym at St Gabriel Catholic Elementary School in Hespeler into a prom showroom.  There was something for everyone’s taste and, most importantly, the prices for the outfits were adjusted to fit anyone’s budget.

“Everything is free,” Keyes said. “We have dresses, suits, dress pants, dress shirts and ties. We have shoes, purses jewellery and all that other fun stuff. We’re also offering dry cleaning and gift certificates for haircuts.” 

Keyes' mother Linda Keyes told CambridgeToday the idea for the Prom Outfit Event campaign came to her daughter a few years ago when she was preparing for her own prom.

“Some of her friends couldn’t go to prom because they couldn’t afford it,” Linda said. “My son had a couple friends who couldn’t afford to go to prom either. Ceceillia said there has got to be people who will donate, and this is what she started.”

Volunteer Sara Rios with Ceceillia Keyes program coordinator for the Silverheights Neighbourhood Association. Troy Bridgeman for CambridgeToday

Ceceillia enlisted help from the entire Keyes family including her younger sister Raelee, who helped secure a loan of clothing racks from Peavy Mart in Cambridge, as well as her brother Jack, who jokingly described himself as a “voluntold.”  Linda said they like to kid with each other, but everyone is committed to the cause.

“They booked their day off a long time ago to make sure they could come to this today,” Linda said. “They’ve been driving around on their own gas doing pickups for her because some people can’t get here.”

 The crew of teenage volunteers, some of whom are preparing for prom themselves, were equally excited to help with the campaign.

“I was listening to some of my staff here saying they were looking at dresses for over $1,000 and that’s just the dress,” Ceceillia said. “You’ve got to think of shoes, hair, makeup, corsages, jewellery and that sort of stuff. How are kids expected to pay for this?” 

The Prom Outfit Event proved popular for high school students from across the Waterloo Region including Sophie Osborne from Jacob Hespeler Secondary School.

Sophie Osborne (centre) selects a prom dress with support from her brother William and event organizer Ceceillia Keyes. Troy Bridgeman for CambridgeToday

“I want to go to prom.,” said Sophie, as she modelled a dress she found. “My mom told me about this event.”

Her younger brother William and her mother Michelle were there to help her pick out an outfit.

“I came across it on Facebook and I showed Sophie,” Michelle Osborne said. “I can’t believe how many dresses and jewellery, and shoes they have here. This is absolutely fantastic.”

Ceceillia said that prom outfits, especially dresses, are typically worn once then packed away in a closet.  Donating to a campaign like this not only helps students who can’t afford to go to prom but is good for the environment as well.

“My staff are always preaching about being more eco-friendly,” she said. “Keeping it within budget and eco-friendly is important to us.”

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Troy Bridgeman

About the Author: Troy Bridgeman

Troy Bridgeman is a multi-media journalist that has lived and worked in the Guelph community his whole life. He has covered news and events in the city for more than two decades.
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