When Nevada Virtual Academy senior Lizzy Rae showed up at Gown Town on Saturday afternoon, she was in search of a big, poofy prom dress.
“They had a nice, big selection and I found exactly what I wanted,” she said as she clutched a bright pink, billowy dress. “It was hard to find, though, because there were so many options.”
Rae brought two friends and her mother, Karen Minkowfsky.
“Watching her pick out her dress was amazing,” Minkowfsky said, gazing at her daughter. “I didn’t go to my prom so this was unique for me.”
Dozens of young ladies lined up hours before Gown Town opened at Town Square for a chance to score a gently used prom dress for $20.
Al Phillips Cleaners began accepting dress donations at its 13 locations across the Las Vegas Valley months before Saturday’s event.
More than 700 dresses had been collected by March 14.
“Prom dresses can run $300 to $400 so we’re able to send someone to prom for a more affordable amount,” said Abby Quinn, chief community relations officer for HELP of Southern Nevada, which serves the poor, homeless and those in crisis.
Organizers said 375 dresses were sold at Gown Town on Saturday and nearly $7,500 was raised.
Proceeds from the annual 98.5 KLUC-FM event will be donated to the organization.
“We have nine departments with 33 programs and the one that’s hurting the most is our homeless youth center where we house and feed them,” she said. “$57 a day feeds and houses one youth, so every three dresses we sell helps get youth off the streets.”
Quinn said the event, which has been held across the Las Vegas Valley on and off for the past 10 years, helps Las Vegas families save money on prom and other special events while helping out a great cause.
“We’ve been in the community for 45 years and it’s nice for people to know that the money they spend will stay in the community,” she said. “Everyone should be able to experience prom.”
Bonanza High School senior Connie Elliott is gearing up for her prom, which is only three weeks away at Springs Preserve.
“This was a great opportunity because dresses are always so expensive,” she said. “I’m hoping my prom is classy, upbeat and fun.”
Elliott said her mother helped pick out the purple and black dress she purchased.
“It’s simple, classy and has the old-fashioned look that I was going for,” she said.
East Career and Technical Academy senior Tanya Martinez was in line two hours before the event opening in an effort to find a dress for anti-prom, an event she has coordinated with 10 of her friends.
“We’re going to go ice skating and paintballing in our prom dresses,” Martinez said. “Prom can get really expensive so I wanted to do something cheaper and more fun.”
Brazilian foreign exchange student Amanda Machado Viana brought along three other foreign exchange students she has met while attending Silverado High School.
“Prom is very different in Brazil since each class decides what they want to do,” she said. “I’m excited to experience prom here.”
Machado Viana ended up with a floral print dress for the April event.
“The dress fit me perfectly and it’s not boring,” she said. “Gown Town was really cool because you don’t have to go to a ton of stores to find a dress and there are so many people here to help you.”
Purchasing a dress is just the beginning of prom preparations for Boulder City High School senior Kelsey Chatwin.
“I have to figure out what I’m going to do with my hair,” she said. “I’m also planning to ask my prom date to go with me next week by filling up his truck with his favorite color balloons and making a poster.”
Cathy Delliponti found the perfect prom dress for her daughter Lexi, a junior at Southwest Career and Technical Academy.
“Teenagers don’t generally follow what Mom says but Mom scored today,” she said of the black beaded dress Lexi purchased. “When she tried it on we totally had a wow moment … it was stunning.”
Delliponti added that she enjoyed the girls’ positive attitudes.
“If a dress didn’t fit, the girls would switch dresses,” she said. “This was an amazing event.”
Contact Ann Friedman at email@example.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @AnnFriedmanRJ on Twitter.