Bringing Prom to Those Who Can't Afford It - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Bringing Prom to Those Who Can't Afford It

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Prom season is right around the starts next Saturday, March 8th with Sparks High School's prom. The stuffed showroom at Aly's Prom Closet in Shopper's Square is ready. Looking over the bright colors, sequins and chiffon, program chair Becky Blank wonders what they would all say if they could talk: "Oh the stories they would tell...and the stories we do hear after they go out of here."

All happy moments…a ride in a limo…the first dance. But for the young ladies who can't afford a proper dress, the memories are not so good. For too many in our area, the teenage rite of passage has become downright unaffordable. Are there really kids who don't go to the prom because they can't afford the cost? Blank didn't hesitate: "Oh yes, oh yes. I think it's around 30 or 35%."

And that's how Aly's Prom Closet began, 13 years ago. While too many parents are still unemployed, the cost of prom itself has long been rising. Last year, the U.S. average cost for boys to go to the prom was $325. For girls, $487. Add the limo, photos and tickets, and the average is an astonishing $1,445 a couple…and it's expected to ride even higher this year. The priciest necessity of all are the clothes, especially the gowns and dresses.

But for the low-income families that qualify, everything at Aly's Prom Closet is free. As Becky showed us during a walk through the makeshift aisles, "Dresses...and shoes...purses, jewelry...we have anything that a young girl might want to go to the prom."

Because the long gowns tend to be classic styles, they stay in vogue from one prom to another. And, a great deal never goes out of style. Holding a beautiful, still-looks-new dress, Becky told us, "I would say this dress, with all its beading and it's silk, goes for about $300 new. But we want to make sure they never have to incur a cost to come in and be able to get a beautiful gown, beautiful shoes, jewelry...we'll rent a tuxedo for the young man."

A tuxedo rental is about $75 a night. To buy the Hugo Boss tux we found on the rack at Aly's would cost you about $300 at a store. But for those who can't afford it, it's no cost at Aly's Prom Closet. And like most everything else here, it was worn only once. Today, it's an admission ticket for someone who's been priced out of prom.

Once Aly's Prom Closet took off, more students began to donate dresses, as did local boutiques. Each year, more dresses are donated, and like every year, you'll see Aly's picture on the wall. Becky's daughter was killed by a drunk driver when she was 18. Becky told us, "It's her spirit that really carries this on. On her headstone it says, 'If you don't have a smile, I'll give you one of mine.'"

That was something Aly had written before she died. Giving smiles is what she's doing here now, along with everyone else who keeps this local tradition going.

-written by John Potter

Aly's Prom Closet is open from now to April 27th at Shopper's Square:

Tuesdays 4:00-7:00pm

Thursdays 4:00pm-7:00pm

Saturdays noon-4:00pm

Students are qualified for Aly's Prom Closet through their high school counselors, based on financial need. Since it began in 2002, Aly's has helped over 3,100 local students. To qualify for help, or make a donation, click the link below:

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