Prom is just couple of weeks away for many Tri-City schools, and two Tri-Cities Prep seniors still don’t have their dresses.
Not that Corinne Barnett and Audrey Hermann don’t have plenty on hand.
The rack of dresses the 18-year-olds have assembled in recent days ranges from short party styles to strapless gowns and comes in every color of a rhinestone-encrusted rainbow.
But the dresses they’ve collected from fellow students, parents and Tri-Citians are for teenage girls who might not have the means to pay full price, or at all, for a beautiful outfit to wear at one of the biggest nights of the school year.
And no girl should have to miss out on their prom, they said.
“We want to assist them in having a normal life,” Corinne said.
Corinne was looking for an idea for her senior project when Maureen McGrath, the mother of a fellow Prep student who’s worked in child welfare for Catholic Family & Child Service, recommended establishing a dress exchange for high schoolers in foster care or from low-income families.
“I’ve really sought to support grassroot efforts to fill the gaps” in what some youth miss out on because of their circumstances, McGrath told the Herald.
Audrey joined the project, having seen the struggle that foster kids face after her family looked at becoming a foster family.
“It’s really hard for them in some cases,” Audrey said. “We can go to our parents, but they have to ask their caregiver or social worker, and that’s real hard.”
The girls reached out through Facebook and to their fellow students for donations, and word quickly spread about the project they’re calling Exchange for Change.
A Hanford High School student has offered to help collect dresses and some male students are chipping in. One welded racks to hang the dresses.
The goal is to have 50 dresses by Saturday. They are about a third of the way there, but donations are still coming in and will be accepted Saturday morning.
“This is our first go at it, so it’s been a learning experience but the community has really stepped up,” Corinne said Thursday. “We’ve had a lot of calls today.”
The dresses will be available at the Cynergy Centre on 27th Avenue in Kennewick. The space was donated for the event and beauty supplier Bare Minerals will provide makeovers, as well.
The goal is to sell the dresses for no more than half what they’d go for in a dress shop, Audrey and Corinne said, with all proceeds being used to continue the effort. Girls also can exchange one dress for another.
But every girl who comes in needing a dress will leave with one.
“We will not deny a person a dress,” Audrey said.
The pair already plan for the event to continue even after they graduate. A similar dress exchange for homecoming season is scheduled for Sept. 5, and several juniors have approached them about carrying on their efforts.
Once Saturday’s event is done, Corinne and Audrey plan to carve out some time to do their own shopping for prom.
Their project has given them plenty of inspiration.