Make Dreams Come True ends year giving

By Darren Lum

Published Dec. 11 2018

‘Tis the season for giving. A foursome of women were embodying the spirit of Christmas giving and tailoring formal ensembles for boys and girls on Saturday Dec. 1 for the semi-formal this past weekend as part of Make Dreams Come True.

Make Dreams Come True is a community initiative going strong for close to five years. It provides youth from Grade 8 to 12 an opportunity to get dressed up formally for no cost whether it’s a semi-formal prom or graduation

On Saturday Dec. 1 at the Castle Antique’s attic in Haliburton Make Dreams Come True founders Jenn Abbott and Nancy Lowes and their volunteer seamstresses Shannon McCracken and Leslie Brown  helped the youth get outfitted with shoes purses dresses suits and ties.

Abbott doesn’t mind the many hours she and her group puts in to make it all happen.

“It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it to see the joy [on their faces]” she said.

They don’t have mirrors in the attic of Castle Antiques to encourage the participants to come out of the dressing area and show them their ensemble which also included costume jewelry fake eyelashes and makeup. Besides the public the local businesses have also donated items.

Make Dreams Come True offers a service more complete than any mall could provide McCracken said.

“They get treated to everything. If they go into a mall and they find a dress and it doesn’t fit them perfectly [then] too bad. They either buy it or they don’t. They take it home and try and wear it or not. We alter it. We make it fit them. We hook them up with some jewelry with some shoes [gifts donations] … makeup. We had photography sessions [in the spring]” she said. “It’s not just the night of the event. It’s the whole planning preparation. It makes them feel special.”

This is the first time Make Dreams Come True offered their service in December long before the spring when students are looking to find clothing for prom and graduation.

Abbott said with so much clothing available it made sense to open the attic door this month to help last-minute shoppers looking for formal ensembles or pieces to complete looks for the semi-formal.

The attic was filled with 10 racks of clothes.

Sometimes the participants return the formal clothing after wearing it keeping the clothing in circulation. Any articles that haven’t been used for a while are donated to the 4Cs in Haliburton.

Lowes said offering access in December made sense.

“The turnout was so good the first year we just kept going” she said. “Now at least we’ve got a home.”

The entire collection of clothing is permanently housed in the attic at Castle Antiques. It will remain so until the building sells.

The collection boasts an estimated 500 dresses.

Lowes is amazed at the generosity by the public who have approached her and Abbott in public or had donations brought to their homes. Other drop-offs are Organic Times in Minden and Castle Antiques in Haliburton.

Make Dreams Come True started as a one-day event to several days in the spring after March Break on Saturdays leading up to prom or graduation. Abbott points out this was due in large part to having to rent space. The cost was out of pocket for the organizers and prohibitive to have more than one day.

The word about Make Dreams Come True is spreading.

Abbott said more people are learning about what they’re offering.

Over the years the stigma attached to getting the free clothing has diminished.

“It’s people who want to come in and see what they can find” Lowes said.

For some of them it is the first time they’ve worn a formal gown.

McCracken a Grade 8 teacher remembers having a class discussion about free clothing and could tell there had been an attitude shift. What was once considered something left for only people who didn’t have money has evolved to a fun thing for friends to do together as an outing. The organizers said it’s also about giving formal attire new life instead of having a suit or gown languish in closets. The clothing donated is often new or in close to new condition. Some even have the manufacturer tags.

Living down the road from Castle Antiques Grade 10 student Tyler McGovern made the short walk beaming with a smile while wearing his new suit and tie.

He appreciated the help he got Saturday and recommends it to others.

“If you want a new suit or something you should come here” he said.

His other option was to go to a suit store in Oshawa but the time and distance to get there was prohibitive.

McGovern who learned about Make Dreams Come True at the high school was excited about dressing nicely for his first formal dance and his girlfriend who was going with him.

Getting dressed up for a special occasion adds to the experience.

“This will be fun because I’ll have something nice to wear” he said.