Prom season is a time of slow dances, big corsages and even bigger updos. It's also the season for many girls to spend an exorbitant amount of money -- $500 or more to buy a dress, along with shoes, manicures, pedicures and jewelry.
Courtesy Casey Carignan
Kristin Terry, left, teacher at Baraboo High School in Wisconsin; Casey Carignan, founder of the local chapter of Becca's Closet; and Casey Kothbauer, student coordinator, show off some donated dresses.
It's an expensive proposition, and for those whose families may already be struggling financially, it can make for tough choices.
Dress drives across the country encourage girls to donate gently used formal dresses for those who can't afford to purchase new ones. One such dress drive in Baraboo, Wisc., is earning some well-deserved recognition.
In 2009, as a senior at Baraboo High School, Casey Carignan, along with teacher Kristin Terry, started a local chapter of Becca's Closet
, a nationwide organization that collects and donates prom dresses founded by Florida
high school student Rebecca Kirtman before her death in a car accident.
recently won a $1,500 grant from another national dress drive, Donate My Dress, and Carignan, who is now a freshman at University of Wisconsin
-Platteville, received the National Lifetime Remarkable Women Award from the Lifetime television network. Her work will be featured in a 30-second segment on the channel tonight.
Carignan is the latest recipient of the National Lifetime Remarkable Women Award, joining a club that includes Michelle Obama
and Queen Latifah.
"I took buying a prom dress for granted," Carignan told AOL News. "Families shouldn't have to tell their daughters, 'Sorry, we can't afford this.' It's the one night when you can feel like a princess."
The dress drives serve another purpose: Reusing a dress is earth-friendly.
"Go green and recycle your dress," she said. "Allow a girl to have the same experience you did in that dress."
To solicit dress donations from the community, she placed an ad in the local paper. She was deluged with calls. "I was running everywhere picking up dresses," she said. "We now have 250 dresses -- both cocktail and prom dresses."
Hilary Stone was one enthusiastic donor. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Clair student had several dresses taking up space
in her closet. "I liked them a lot, but I was never going to wear them again," she said. "I hope someone gets to use one of my dresses and has a really nice time."
Local hair salons also pitched in, donating gift certificates for free updos, and the national company Bumpits donated 360 boxes of hair clips.
The group is looking to open a store where girls can go to try on dresses and have a "true shopping experience," Carignan told AOL News.
For now, a local business has allowed the organization to use its back room as a temporary store. Baraboo High School's prom is coming up in May, and girls make appointments to come into the store and pick out a dress. So far, Carignan and her colleagues have given away 16 dresses.
Despite all the success and accolades, Carignan seems to have already found her reward in the faces of the girls who try on the dresses she helps collect. "Just to see their smile, it's amazing."