Dozens of young ladies get to be the belle of the ball this prom season — all thanks to one Shelton teen.
Katie McKeon, a local resident and senior at St. Joseph’s High School in Trumbull, collected more than 100 gently used gowns — more than 20 alone donated by Sabrina Style in Sandy Hook — as part of a prom dress exchange she unveiled at her school last year during St. Joseph’s Giving Week.
In the end, Katie, who will be attending High Point University in North Carolina in the fall, was able to give the donated dresses to students from Oxford, Shelton and Seymour. She donated the remainder to Belle of the Ball, which opened a free Prom Shop in New Haven on March 30 for New Haven students who need dresses.
“I was so overwhelming to see how happy they were,” said Katie about her donations to local students. “My goal was to make sure all girls have a great night at their prom, that they could really feel good about themselves. To know I had an opportunity to help these girls is something I will forever be grateful for.”
“I am so proud of her,” said Lori McKeon, Katie’s mother as well as her assistant when it came to sorting, by color and size, the dozens of dresses donated over the past few weeks.
Lori said she was shocked with not only the amount of dresses they obtained but also how impeccable the gowns were when donated. Lori said the gowns, in many cases, were dry cleaned and some still had the tags on them.
The pair also credited Irene Caufield, owner of Sabrina Style, who decided to donate more than 20 dresses, all, according to Lori, between $250 and $450 in price.
“Prom is a special time, a transformative moment for these girls, and I feel they should all have the opportunity to have a beautiful dress,” said Caufield, adding that she donates dresses every year and works with customers on payment plans during prom season, all to help get girls gowns.
“I want to see every girl have a chance to feel beautiful,” said Caufield. “This opportunity [with Katie] just came up, and I felt that this is the right time to give back.”
Katie started this process in hopes of removing cost as an obstacle for high school girls attending the senior prom. She said the cost of a dress alone can easily top $400, and that is before the cost of shoes, accessories, hair and makeup are factored in.
“I wanted to give everyone a chance to have a great evening in a beautiful dress,” she said. “There are so many dresses out there, and so many of these events. There are people who can’t go to their prom because of the cost, and others who have gently used dresses that are gathering dust in their closet.”
Katie said her first experience with the cost of school dances was in eighth grade, when some girls in her class could not attend a spring formal because of the cost.
“If they can’t afford an eighth-grade dance, they definitely can’t go to prom,” she said.
At St. Joseph, each year brings another round of expensive formal-wear.
“We have the sophomore Spring Fling, the Junior Ring Dance, Senior Prom,” she said.
While she did not start this process with a goal in mind for the total number of dresses to collect or distribute, Katie said the more people donate, the more high school girls can enjoy a worry-free special night.
“I just want girls to be able to go to their prom,” said Katie, “and feel great, and have a great night and not have to worry about expenses.”
Donald Eng contributed to this article.