Gowns for Grads

Written by Sister Kelly Sanford, ER - Brooks Elks Lodge No. 77

Today, like every day I was racing around with a million things on my to do list and not enough time to achieve it all.  As I raced the clock, I ran into an old acquaintance.  I was half distracted as we exchanged hellos as old friends do, the basics really, the how are you, how’s the kids, what have you been up too.  He asked if I was still a member of the Elks, I said yes, I have been a member for 8 years now.  His next question stopped me in my tracks… he looked and me and asked “Why?”.  Shocked I looked at him and he said “I mean why do you spend all that time volunteering?  What have you accomplished?  What keeps you going?”  My head started spinning, what have I accomplished? Why do I spend countless hours working on projects?  What a complicated and loaded question!  I have accomplished being the first female District Deputy in District 13, and the first female ER of Brooks Elks 77, that’s something!  Or is it the festivals, and fishing derby’s that I have chaired?  Or is it my work on the Provincial Association especially with Publicity, maybe the changes I have been a part of with the National Marketing Committee?  Families I have been able to help? Meeting some of my best friends in the whole world?  Like I said, a very loaded question.  Then suddenly, my head stopped spinning and the answer was simple.  My proudest moment, a beautiful program called Gowns for Grads. 

What is Gowns for Grads you may ask, well it is simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  Gowns for Grads is a project that was started by the Sherwood Parks Elks Lodge and with the help of Leonard and Barb Shain, Brooks Elks could open last year.  Gowns for Grads is best described as:  a no questions asked Elks project that provides like new, FREE, I repeat FREE, grad dressed (and suits) to graduates who can’t afford to purchase one.  Pretty cool eh?  you might ask yourself what makes it amazing, while that answer is simple.  It’s the look on a young lady’s face who comes in shy and unsure of herself and leaves with the dress of her dreams, feeling like a princess and her head held high.  It is the girl who never bought a ticket to prom because she couldn’t afford the dress but now she is able to go.  It is the moms who has the weight of the world lifted off her shoulders, because moms would give anything to make their daughters dreams come true but knew deep down they couldn’t.  it’s the dad who brings his daughter in for a princess dress, because all the family money is going towards his medical condition that they didn’t have extra to spare, but he knew that he would cherish every moment of the parent child dance with his princess cause the doctors told him that he wouldn’t make it to dance with her at her wedding.   it’s the smile, the tears, the thank you.

Besides being an amazing project, the concept itself is so simple.  Grads drop off their used grad dresses they wish to donate and you give them to those who need one.  Of course, there is a lot of man hours involved to make this possible, and of course you still need donations to run.  But this time you are not selling a raffle ticket to the public, it’s not looking for a donation for an auction, or a door prize, it’s not cooking, its simply collecting and paying it forward.  I must say that donations are surprisingly easy to come across for example a local real estate agency in Sherwood Park donated the Sherwood Park Gown Project a home, and Smith Group Holdings in Brooks gladly supplied Brooks with a home.  Girls realize that they can pay it forward and gladly donate their dresses, radio stations, newspapers, and television are more than happy to help get the word about the project out and it’s a win for everyone involved.

So, like I said in the beginning its A-M-A-Z-I-N-G