Twelve years ago, social worker Ruth Renwick got a phone call from a co-worker who said a mother had broken down in front of her because she was unable to afford a prom dress for her daughter.
So Renwick and Trisha Waechtei decided to find her one. Renwick went into her closet, and then her daughter’s, to find a dress for the girl and went over to her house to give it to her. The dress didn’t fit. So Renwick came back home and got seven more dresses and returned to the home.
“And one of them was the one,” says Renwick, who went on to help get dresses for 48 more girls that year.
Since then, her Inside the Dream project has helped thousands of girls and boys find the perfect prom dress or suit for their school formal at no cost.
Marianne Tanedo was one of those girls, ten years ago, looking for a dress for her grade-eight graduation. Today, the 23-year-old came back to help out and volunteer as a personal shopper.
“I decided to come back and make another girl feel special like I did. It’s a rewarding thing to do and I love coming back,” said Tanedo, who has come back for the third year in a row to help out. “The girls are happy and open up to you and, being in that situation, you know what it feels like to come in and that completely different feeling when you leave.”
Tanedo was introduced to the project by her social worker, Lisa Taylor, who was a big support to her when her own mother passed away when she was in grade five.
“My father wasn’t around much because he was always working and she was with us till we were able to get back on out feet,” said Tanedo, who hopes to become a social worker one day.
Taylor was also volunteering at the event that day. She said it was great to see the students change in their attitude from not wanting to go to prom to suddenly feeling like they should. “This is definitely a worthwhile service,” she said.
For Kristina, the day was made even better by Constable Jennifer Sidhu, who was volunteering her time to help pick outfits for the students. As Kristina’s personal shopper, Sidhu helped the 17-year-old find the perfect dress.
“I’m so happy!” said Kristina, smiling at Sidhu. “She suggested everything from the dress to the shoes and the jewellery and everything worked. I love it,” said the grade 12 student with a big smile.
“It’s great being involved in Inside The Dream because the kids walk in very shy and they leave with this confidence and true appreciation for their big event, which is their graduation and prom,” said Sidhu, who helped collect dress and shoe donations along with Service members Sherene Jattan and Meaghan Gray, as well as Sandra Simoes from the Ministry of the Attorney General.