Written by Kristy Graves, a member of our Young Person’s Advisory Council and former young person in care.
This past Sunday I was given the opportunity to speak at the 15th annual Boutique Ball put on by Project Corsage. Not only was this an amazing honour and a chance to really thank the volunteers, but this also gave me a new perspective on the event.
Six years ago I attended this event myself as a 17-year-old girl getting ready for her prom. Prior to learning about Project Corsage, I had decided I wasn’t going to prom because I simply couldn’t afford it. I was exhausted with the tiresome task of always being different, of always being the “foster kid”, and prom was a day I wanted to be normal.
I wanted to wear the beautiful dress, walk in heels that should be registered as hazardous, and doll myself up. If I couldn’t do all of this, I decided I would rather not go.
Like all of the girls at the event, someone in my life referred me to Project Corsage and I was able to go to the ball and pick out my prom attire. Prom itself was a let down but the best part for me was taking pictures with my graduating class, and not standing out because I was different, but because I looked just as beautiful as everyone else.
It was an amazing feeling to return to the ball six years later, as a young woman who has since graduated university, aged out of the system, and is living independently. I was instantly transported back to the emotions of that day because I saw them written across the face of every young woman there. Excited nervousness when they first walked in, timid and wary, frustration as they searched for the perfect dress. Happiness when they found the gown that spoke to their hearts and accessories to match. But by far the best part was what I hadn’t noticed the first time I went: the transformation.
The girls who walked in the doors of the Boutique Ball were not the same confident young women who walked out. By the end, they were dolled-up and posing goofily in front of the photo wall, they were beaming radiant goddesses who walked out the doors with a new confidence and I believe a higher sense of self-worth.
It was equally amazing to see how emotionally attached each volunteer was to this cause. Whether it was the tears they shed as I spoke to tell them of the impact this day makes, or the happy tears they shed as personal shoppers saw their young charges leave with the dresses of the dreams, this team all have hearts three times the normal size and it shows. The team at Project Corsage is made entirely of volunteers who are so passionate that they spend all year planning the Boutique Ball. There is so much work throughout the year and so much on the day of. It was interesting for me to be there before and after the youth came in, to witness the set up and preparation. It gave me a new thankfulness and appreciation for my own days as a young woman walking through those doors.
On behalf of me and every other girl whose dreams you have fulfilled in the past 15 years, thank you Project Corsage. Happy birthday. May you continue for many years to come.