Waving the magic wand at graduation

Magic Wand Project lends formal dresses, tuxedos to grads throughout the region.

  • Apr. 4, 2015 10:00 a.m.

Isabella Scognamiglio

Prom and graduation season is just around the corner, and with it comes a slew of expenses for teens and their parents.

Dresses, tuxedo rentals, shoes and accessories, the list goes on, and can add up to hundreds of dollars for one night’s worth of festivities. Those financial pressures can mean some kids forgo their graduation parties, rather than showing up underdressed, but thanks to the Magic Wand Project, no grad needs to miss out.

Started up in 2001 by former teacher and counsellor Elizabeth Surerus, the Magic Wand Project lends out dresses and tuxedos, with all their accoutrements.

“I was aware of the Cinderella Project in Vancouver, and I knew we didn’t have anything like that for our grads,” says Surerus. “I started it for our students to have that opportunity.”

Initially developed for students with financial difficulties, the only cost to the kids is a minimal charge for dry-cleaning.

As the project gained exposure over the years though, students started jumping on board for different reasons, and now Surerus has opened it up to all students, regardless of their financial situation.

“Anybody can come,” she says. “Anybody who wants to save money and use it for something else, maybe their education or a donation to a cause.”

The project’s motto is ‘Why buy when you can borrow?’

Surerus emphasizes too that it’s not just for the girls. She has a wide selection of tuxedos and suits for the guys, including pinstripes, tails, and even a few dapper white jackets.

New this year, the project has a bit more room to spread out.

Answering Surerus’ call for more space, the Individual Learning Centre in Saanichton stepped up and offered a large, unused room as a ‘boutique’ space at no cost to the project.

“It’s another opportunity to offer something to the community,” says Shirley Elm, principal of the learning centre.

“And it’s really about providing opportunities to students so they can make the choices they like.”

A prime example of the increasing popularity of the project, Elm’s own daughter and her friends have jumped on board because of its eco-friendly aspects, something more students are becoming aware of.

“They’re saying, ‘If you want to be green, do it,’” says Elm. “Everybody has a different reason for borrowing.”

As well as breathing room, housing the Magic Wand Project at the Individual Learning Centre has another perk: a fully functioning hair salon just across the hall.

Studio 63 offers free haircuts, styles and up-dos as part of a 12-month hairdressing program. Grad students can get their hair done for prom or graduation on the day, says Elm, and some of the hairdressers even do a little bit of makeup too. The studio opens April 13.

Surerus says she doesn’t need any more donations of formal wear — there are already dozens of dresses and suits on the racks and more at her home — but the project could use the volunteer services of someone to do alterations.

For more information, visit themagicwandproject.ca, search Magic Wand Project Victoria on Facebook, or to book an appointment, call Elizabeth Surerus at 250-658-0246, or email esurerus@telus.net.

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