Each year, The Corsage Project’s Boutique Ball, in support of the Children’s Aid Foundation, provides an opportunity for at-risk girls across Toronto and the GTA to feel beautiful, inside and out. Supplying brand new dresses and suits, shoes, and accessories, the Ball gives these youth who would otherwise be unable to attend their high school proms due to financial constraints, the chance to partake in this milestone. This experience can not only help to build their self-worth, but also encourage a sense of belonging that will be carried well beyond graduation.
Many of the young people who attend The Boutique Ball are involved with the child welfare system. Kristy, a former youth in care, shares her experiences as a “Corsage Girl”, and how the experience helped to develop her self-esteem.
“It’s crazy to think that this picture was taken almost exactly five years ago. It seems like forever ago, and yet I remember it like it was yesterday. I had it in my head that I wouldn’t be going to prom because I just simply couldn’t afford the dress, shoes, and everything else to go with it — and of course in high school you don’t want to be that one girl with all of the cheap stuff. My social worker had other ideas though and got me involved with Project Corsage. I went with my best friend into this huge room downtown that had hundreds of beautiful dresses, as well as shoes and jewellery. I had my own personal stylist as I tried on dresses and told her exactly what I wanted, and I felt like a star. In the end, I chose the dress you see here, and the accompanying jewellery. I went to my prom and had an amazing time — just like every other girl — and thanks to Project Corsage I looked pretty good doing it.”
About the Boutique Ball…
The racks are filled with chiffon and satin; the tables stacked with metallics and gemstones; the girls filled with excitement and anticipation. Working in partnership with the Children’s Aid Foundation, The Corsage Project’s annual Boutique Ball is an incredible day setup for girls who are faced with financial barriers that make attending their high school proms either impossible or extremely burdensome.
Founded by Carole Atkins and Rhona Sallay, who both worked with at-risk and special-needs youth in Toronto high schools, girls can be referred to the Boutique Ball through their social workers, guidance counsellors or teachers. All dresses and accessories are brand new and donated by various brands and companies.
“I first heard about Corsage through my guidance counsellor,” says Blanca, a Corsage recipient. “I know there were other girls in my school who were asked to come and I [can tell them now] that it’s just a great experience and very beneficial.”
Given the opportunity to select a dress, pair of shoes, and jewellery, the event truly covers all aspects of preparing for the big night. Corsage staff and volunteers help each girl select a complete “look”, many of whom share in the thrill of reliving their own high school milestones.