Abing­ton stu­dent mak­ing prom dreams come true

The Globe - - REALESTATETRANSFERS - By Jar­reau Free­man

Around the same time Han­nah Abel, 16, was pre­par­ing for the Abing­ton Ju­nior High School 2012 fresh­men for­mal, she learned a few of her friends from an­other lo­cal high school wouldn’t be go­ing to their prom be­cause they couldn’t af­ford prom dresses.

“I wouldn’t want to miss out on my prom,” Han­nah said dur­ing an in­ter­view March 5. “I knew I wanted to do some­thing to change that.”

Af­ter brain­storm­ing ideas with her mom, Re­becca, last sum­mer, Han­nah said they dreamed up Dress it For­ward — an op­por­tu­nity for lo­cal stu­dents to ob­tain free for­mal at­tire for spe­cial events like the prom.

“Han­nah and I have talked a lot about how ridicu­lous and costly prom dresses are, when we’ve gone shop­ping,” Re­becca said. “Prom is such a rite of pas­sage. It was very painful for both of us to learn those girls wouldn’t be go­ing to their prom.”

In April 2012, CBS New York.com re­ported that the typ­i­cal price for a dress was around $231, shoes $45 and a hand­bag $23.

In ad­di­tion, Han­nah es­ti­mated that prom tick­ets could be $30 to $200 based on how much stu­dent bod­ies fundraise for their prom.

In 2012 it was es­ti­mated that fam­i­lies would spend an av­er­age of $1,078 each on the prom. This is a 33.6 per­cent boost from the av­er­age $807 spent on proms in 2011, ac­cord­ing to data col­lected for a 2012 Visa Inc. tele­phone sur­vey.

“It’s a lot of money,” she said. “My mis­sion is to make some­one feel spe­cial in a pretty prom dress and jew­elry. I want ev­ery­one to ex­pe­ri­ence this rite of pas­sage, be­cause it’s some­thing you al­ways re­mem­ber. It’s im­por­tant.”

To get this ini­tia­tive off the ground, Han­nah asked her class­mates and friends to do­nate for­mal wear to her cause. She also set up cloth­ing drop-off sites at Bunn’s Nat­u­ral Foods in Southamp­ton and Linda’s Loft in Jenk­in­town. Some lo­cal busi­nesses also al­lowed her to hang posters in their stores to help get the word out. “We have close to 100 dresses,” Re­becca said. “We also have three suits and three tuxes,” Han­nah said. “I wasn’t ex­pect­ing this many do­na­tions.”

Some of the do­na­tions she re­ceived were de­signer clothes, such as a vel­vet Ralph Lau­ren dress and a Hugo Boss suit. “There were quite a num­ber of dresses that still had tags on them,” she said.

To launch Dress it For­ward, Han­nah held a spe­cial pre­view event Feb. 23 in the newly ren­o­vated build­ing lo­cated at 224 Old York Road, across from the Drake Tav­ern in Jenk­in­town, in prepa­ra­tion for a March 9 shop­ping event.

“My best friend’s dad, Jeff Lustig, does a lot of build­ing ren­o­va­tions in Jenk­in­town and he was nice enough to let me use the space rent free for the last cou­ple of weeks,” she said.

Dur­ing the pre­view, live mu­sic was played and guests en­joyed do­nated re­fresh­ments and raf­fle items from busi­ness like Ros­nov Jewel­ers.

“Ev­ery­one has been really gen­er­ous and really open to help­ing me put it all to­gether,” she said.

Last week­end, Han­nah hosted the shop­ping day, which she de­scribed as “fab­u­lous.”

With the show of their school IDs, stu­dents could choose from a se­lec­tion of dresses in a va­ri­ety of styles and sizes, as well as a se­lec­tion of free jew­elry and com­pli­men­tary lip gloss do­nated by Burling­ton Coat Fac­tory.

“I got the chance to dress four prom queens,” she said Feb.11. “One girl got a beau­ti­ful aqua­ma­rine dress and paired it with a sparkly gold purse and gold ban­gles. An­other girl got an or­ange mer­maid styled JRZQ ZLWK ZKLWH VHTXLQV LQ WKH VKDSH RI flRZHrV. $ gold dress with match­ing jew­elry and a one shoul­der rHG GrHVV ZLWK flRZHrV DORQJ WKH VWrDS ZHrH FKRVHQ Ey two other girls.”

Prom go­ers were not the only ones in search of “the per­fect dress.” Han­nah said she gave a wed­ding dress to a bride-to-be.

“The woman tried on a white gown with a beaded neck­line and knew it was the one for her spe­cial day,” she said. “I was really only ex­pect­ing maybe one girl to come, how­ever, when ev­ery­one came in, I couldn’t be­lieve it. Their hap­pi­ness made me so ex­cited and ac­com­plished.”

In the weeks to come Han­nah hopes to at­tract more peo­ple to 224 York Road. Thanks to the gen­eros­ity of the land­lord, she said she will keep Dress it For­ward open for the re­main­der of month on Satur­days from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Han­nah has al­ways been very thought­ful and good about do­ing for oth­ers,” Re­becca said. “I am proud of her want­ing to do some­thing for some­one else. She just wants ev­ery­one to have a good prom ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Han­nah Abel dis­plays some of the dresses and ac­ces­sories avail­able at Dress It For­ward at 224 Old York Road in Jenk­in­town.

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