*Photos courtesy of Mark Beauchamp.

Prom is more than just a fun night with friends – it is a rite of passage marking the end of high school. Every young person deserves the chance at an unforgettable evening celebrating such a significant milestone in life. But with dresses, shoes, and accessories costing hundreds of dollars, many teens – especially those in the child welfare system – end up having to skip prom because they can’t afford formal wear. Prom is especially meaningful for youth from care, less than half of whom make it to graduation day.

The Corsage Project provides vulnerable young women with a prom experience to remember.

Former educators Carole Atkins and Rhona Sallay had watched many students miss out on prom because of financial pressures while working in Toronto high schools. Determined that no teen should be denied a prom, they founded the Corsage Project together with Children’s Aid Foundation in 2000 to provide deserving young women with stylish new formal gowns and accessories for their prom.

April 23rd marked the 17th anniversary of the Boutique Ball, hosted by the Corsage Project and held at the Toronto Reference Library. At the Boutique Ball, 250 girls roamed rack upon rack of donated brand-new dresses in all colours and sizes with a personal shopper and left with stunning outfits, free of charge.

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For Cat (pictured above and below), a 2017 participant, the Boutique Ball meant more than just a fun day – it was an opportunity to build self-worth and a sense of belonging.

“Seeing my prom outfit come together was a very exciting moment because I simply didn’t think I would have one,” she said. “I felt beautiful.”

Beyond the Boutique Ball, the Children’s Aid Foundation and The Corsage Project have created a scholarship program that gives current or former Crown wards the opportunity to attend post-secondary school. Thanks to the  generosity of donors, to date, 53 high school graduates have received over $87,000 in scholarships and bursaries, creating an impact that lasts well beyond graduation day.

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“The Boutique Ball means a lot to me because without this program, I wouldn’t have been able to get a dress or any of these accessories,” said Cat. “Prom is a way to celebrate all the hard work you’ve put into school before going off to college or university. I’ve had a lot of fun, and I know the other girls are enjoying it, too.”

Learn more about supporting youth through the Corsage Project.

About The Author

The Children's Aid Foundation of Canada funds programs to help Canada's most vulnerable children and youth, those who have experienced or are at risk of abuse and neglect, overcome the obstacles in life that prevent them from reaching their full potential. We are committed to giving ongoing support to those who need it most.

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