Haliburton resident Jenn Abbott is making dreams come true again this summer, ensuring that all local high school seniors have the chance to graduate in style.
For the past eight years, Abbott has offered students free outfits to don at convocation. The initiative, labelled Make Dreams Come True, has been popular, with hundreds of students benefitting since its inception.
“I know what it’s like trying to buy something nice for graduation. You either have to go out of town, or buy something online… And it can get very expensive,” Abbott said. “I saw this as a way for the community to come together, pay it forward and put smiles on some kids’ faces.”
It’s been a group effort, Abbott is keen to point out. All of the items she gives away have previously been donated to her by people in the community.
And it isn’t just clothing, Abbott also prepares a goodie bag for the students, including jewelry, makeup and sunglasses. There are options for both men and women.
Abbott has also partnered with a handful of local businesses to add a little sparkle to graduates’ big day. Hairdressers and barbers in the area have agreed to donate their time to give youth a fresh new do, while photographer Chantal Smith is offering free photo sessions for graduates and their family.
While the service is offered free of charge, Abbott said it shouldn’t be seen as charity.
“This is literally available to any student, no matter their background. This isn’t only for those who maybe can’t afford it,” Abbott said. “The goal here is just to give back, and help make this occasion as special as possible.”
Demand has increased in the past two years, largely due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abbott said she had to change the way she operated, transitioning to a model where grads would send photos of what they were looking for in a dress or suit, and Abbott would go searching through her stock and try to find a match. She found that way worked well, and will be sticking to it again this year.
Students will be able to take outfits and accessories home to try on.
“Whatever they like, they keep. Anything they don’t like can be returned,” Abbott said.
So far, nine students have reached out this year. Abbott said she’ll be taking requests until the beginning of June. Anyone interested can contact her at 705-286-0906, or by messaging the Make Dreams Come True group on Facebook.
“I think this is a program that really needed to be started, and I’m very happy with what we’ve been able to do over the past eight years,” Abbott said. “This year is especially exciting, because our students are going to have a graduation ceremony again, which is fantastic.”