Tonawanda News — Prom. It’s a right of passage. A fairytale come true for some. The first real event where young girls can feel like a princess for a day.
But for some, the ever-increasing cost of the dress, shoes, jewelry, etc., can make the prom more of a nightmare than a dream.
The average cost of a prom dress today ranges anywhere from $150 on the low end to $300 to $500 on the high end. According to a report in USA Today, the average price couples spent on the prom in 2013 was $1,139 which included dress, tuxedo, limo, hair, makeup, shoes, jewelry and flowers.
Those costs are only expected to rise this year. And for many students and their parents, the cost is just too high and many are left scrambling to find alternatives.
That is where two mothers from North Tonawanda come in.
Cheryl McMahon and Brenda Hoffman, both mothers of students in the North Tonawanda school district, decided they needed to fill the gap for families in need who couldn’t afford sky-rocketing prom costs.
“We were just talking one day and realized that there was no place in North Tonawanda for girls to get donated prom dresses,” McMahon, a mother of six, said. “We had girls we knew who tried to get prom dresses in Erie County through their donated prom dress program but were turned away because they weren’t from the county.”
Hoffman said she understood the struggle for many parents to pay for prom.
“We both have daughters and knew how hard it can be,” Hoffman said. “Both Cheryl and I have a huge passion for this. We didn’t want the families to have to be burdened with the cost.”
McMahon and Hoffman first went to the school district to get permission to start collecting prom dresses.
“We started by word of mouth,” McMahon said. “The superintendent of the school district, Greg Woytila, helped and so did Mayor Ortt by getting us connections and spreading the word.”
The women thought they would get about 20 dresses but to date have collected nearly 200 dresses, McMahon said.
“We were just flabbergasted by the amount of support we have gotten from the community,” she said.
The school district has donated a room at the Grant School for storage space the women are planning to transform into a boutique-style atmosphere where girls can come and try on the dresses complete with changing rooms and full-length mirrors.
“In March, we are planning on allowing the girls to make appointments to see (and try on) the dresses,” McMahon said. “It would be more private and confidential.”
She said they would prefer to distribute the dresses by individual appointment rather than having everyone come at once.
Many of the prom dresses are brand new, some have only been worn once and all are in beautiful condition, according to McMahon.
They have also collected donated purses, shoes and jewelry that girls can choose from to go with their dresses.
“We have gotten wonderful support from the community,” Hoffman said.
McMahon and Hoffman said that they are only donating prom dresses and accessories to girls in the North Tonawanda School District currently but depending on how many dresses are donated, may open it up to others throughout Niagara County.
But it’s not only prom dresses, the women have also collected graduation gowns for the North Tonawanda schools that students can receive if they are unable to buy a gown from the district at the end of the school year.
“Our vision is to expand this into starting a clothes closet for families in the North Tonawanda School District,” McMahon said. “There are lots of families in need of clothing in North Tonawanda. We want to be able to collect all kinds of clothing that could be distributed with no strings attached and no income guidelines involved.”
On Feb. 22, the women will host a Donate-a-Dress Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Grant School, 35 Grant St., North Tonawanda.
People from the community are welcome to donate new or gently used prom dresses and accessories to the school on that day. But donations are welcome at any time.
“We are always accepting donations,” McMahon said.
To make a donation or to inquire about getting a prom dress, call McMahon at 909-3823. Donations can also be made at 57 Christiana St., North Tonawanda.What: Donate-a-Dress Day Where: Grant School, 35 Grant St., North Tonawanda When: Feb. 22 To make a donation call 909-3823