Came across a post on a local Facebook site and thought it was a worthwhile venture to write about and promote. The Bur Oak Closet is an event targeted at female students in Grades 8 to 12. It is in its third year and the main goal is to help students find dresses for special events such as graduation and prom.
Laura Dodham, Head of Guidance at Bur Oak Secondary School and Vice-Principal, Kathy McAlpine started Bur Oak Closet after being inspired by Maple High School. MHS had been running Diva Ball for over ten years, but the distance was too great for those in the eastern part of York Region. MHS started BOSS off with some dresses and the event was highly promoted and many donations came in from the Markham community.
This comes from the coordinators themselves:
“Thus far, we have been able to give 31 girls a dress which she could wear to a fancy event like a wedding, party, graduation or prom. In Markham and the surrounding areas, we know that many families are doing their best to provide for their children. However, some students may not have the chance to go to one of these events without significant sacrifice. Bur Oak Closets gives the girls an opportunity to enjoy these fancy events with a new dress or to experience the fun of going shopping with girlfriends. If we know that there is a male student in need, we work directly with him to get him an outfit.
Most of the students who visit The Bur Oak Closet are Grade 8 students who have been invited by their teachers for a variety of reasons. The high school students have come from a number of schools in the area, including our BOSS where they do private showings for the girls. We try to make their visit a “shopping” trip where they can try on some clothes (some look like princesses), laugh with their friends, have some refreshments and leave with a dress (if possible) and a gift. Our goal is to have an enjoyable time, feel welcome in our school, meet some older girls and feel special at their event.
We send out invitations to all of the local elementary and secondary schools in York Region including Milliken, Markham, Unionville, Stouffville, Middlefield, and Markville areas. Staff members sign up for an appointment time for their students so that it can be a pleasant and personalized experience.
The community is a big part of the event. Sarah Hosaki has been a tremendous help in providing a way for the community to drop off dresses for us. We are grateful for the fashion sense and generosity of many of our community members. They have donated dresses, scarves, jewellery, shoes, and unused make up.
We have had a generous sponsor who has provided curling irons, hair dryers etc for each girl to take away. In addition, we have been provided with party loot bags with sample products by Turning Hedz last year and a raffle prize for another year. Shoppers Drug Mart also donated some nail polish and lip gloss to add to the bags. Tip Top Tailors provided a full suit a year ago to one of our male students. A local dry cleaner altered two dresses at a reduced cost to ensure that the girls looked stunning in a dress made to size.
Many of the students who are looking for dresses are Grade 8s and we are always are looking for smaller sizes which are age appropriate. On the other end of the spectrum, we have difficulty providing more full bodied girls with fashionable garments for teens.
We do this to build self esteem, sisterhood and a practical solution to a challenge that exists. It is also to build community. I gather a group of Bur Oak students who carefully cull the dresses, catalogue, organize into sizes, act as dressers and floor assistants, set up and serve refreshments. These students are impacted in a very positive way as well…they have thanked us for the opportunity to reach out to other students.”
This event is ending April and the facilators would be grateful for more donations. If you can donate something before Sunday, April 8, the dresses would be available for the clients for this year’s special events. After that, they will be saved for next year’s events so your generous donation will never go to waste. Donations can be dropped off at Bur Oak Secondary School in the guidance office located at 933 Bur Oak Avenue during school hours. Turning Hedz Creations at 2925 Bur Oak Avenue will accept donations anytime as they have an enclosed porch for drop-offs.
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