Dress of Dreams

“Overwhelmed with shock and awe, tears are often shed; a dream is about to come true.”

It’s how Mandy Paavola Mua describes one of her greatest passions, even to the extent of claiming it as her third child.  Prince George Dress Dreams is a relatively contemporary charity with a simple yet honorable objective.  Every year, young girls from all levels of society miss their prom.  Not due to lack of interest mind you, but simply from a lack of funds for accessories, makeup, or even a proper dress.  Mandy’s charity helps a variety of teenage girls in the community including those that are homeless, mothers, independent, or from very low-income families.

“We've helped over a hundred girls in the past five years,” Mandy says, “but I feel like it should be a hundred per year.”

The procedure is quite simple—each girl is nominated by a member of the community.  Mandy confirms with their school that the individual fits the criteria (graduating being one of them).  A personal shopper then guides the graduate through a sea of lace, taffeta, and chiffon, “a rainbow of colors overwhelms the senses,” Mandy says.  A gown is discovered that fulfills a desire the girl may have.  Shoes and accessories are added to the mix.  Minor alterations are done.  Personal care items are graciously accepted, and bags are filled with items that some of these girls only dream of.  They are then sent off to hopefully the time of their lives.

It may sound easy, but Mandy admits it has been anything but.  “Moving hundreds of dresses is a logistical nightmare.  It's hard to find people willing to selflessly help us for more than a day or two.”  For her part, Mandy invests much of her spring to Prince George Dress Dreams.  “I sacrifice time from my family, my business, and of course, anything left over from myself as well.”

Another aspect of the charity is how often dresses are paid forward.  “The girls get to keep the gowns but, they are returned to find another home,” Mandy says.  “We often request plus-sized gowns be returned as those are the most difficult to obtain.”  This biggest hurdle for the charity as it expands involves storage and volunteering.  With hundreds of gowns, Mandy can satisfy demand; she only wishes that demand grow, to spread the word of the charity so girls know such options exist.  “I feel like there's at least ten grads at every local high school that could use our services.  We give them normality, to be like everyone else.” 

And storage.  Mandy could really use the space to display nearly 700 gowns. 

Those wishing to know more, to volunteer or put forward a name should email Mandy at Pgdressdreams@yahoo.ca or check out the Prince George Dress Dreams website at princegeorgedressdreams.webs.com.

- Chris Dias, Scene PG

Norm Coyne