Vanier Secondary is picking up the torch for a program to help grads get formal wear. Photo, Comox Valley Schools

Vanier Secondary is picking up the torch for a program to help grads get formal wear. Photo, Comox Valley Schools

Comox Valley school takes on Cinderalla/Prince Charming for graduation

Vanier Secondary picks up torch for former program to help students with formal wear

A team of students and staff at G.P. Vanier Secondary School has picked up the torch to continue an important donation project to outfit graduates in style.

Known as the Cinderella/Prince Charming Project, the former community-run program is designed to ensure every graduating student in the district has access to special attire to make their graduation ceremony stylish, memorable and affordable.

The project aims to tackle the stigma attached to underprivileged students by giving everyone the opportunity to wear a gown or suit on graduation day without the financial challenges associated with purchasing a brand-new outfit or having one specially made for their milestone event.

RELATED STORY: Photos from Vanier grad 2020

Lee McKillican, vice principal, was approached by a volunteer community-based organization asking if Vanier Secondary would like several grad items, most of which were acquired from store owners of Carosel Consignment upon closing its Courtenay business.

The school received a dozen totes and bins full of gowns, shoes, suits, ties and accessories amounting to approximately 300 garments. McKillican approached a team of staff asking whether they would like to take on the project and have it operational for the Class of 2021.

Vanier staff Kelley Giorgianni and Susan Quinton accepted lead roles for the project with the assistance from fellow Vanier support staff and teachers, as well as students to support in various ways, including the construction trades sample students who built clothing racks.

Rene Lanoix, district custodial manager, was approached and offered to ozonate the clothing to remove any odours, bacteria or moisture that may have accumulated in totes. Lanoix is now investigating a suitable storage location at one of the school sites to house the garments temporarily.

“It has been extremely advantageous and appreciated to have the immediate support of the district to help us prepare the garments and get them ready to distribute,” Giorgianni said. “Now it is a matter of preparing the gowns and suits by steaming them, or dry clean where needed, to have ready for when the students can come and select an outfit.”

The school aims to have the outfits ready for mid-April, an ideal time to begin outfitting graduates. To get to that stage, however, requires additional resources. Vanier is in need of volunteers willing to dedicate a few hours of time to steam outfits. The school also needs more hangers and garment racks to be completely ready after spring break.

Vanier will also accept grad clothing and accessories, particularly clean shirts for men. Financial donations are also accepted to help offset costs to dry-clean items.

While the Cinderella/Prince Charming Project will be run by Vanier, any graduating students throughout the district from one of the other secondary schools in need of an outfit can benefit from the project.

Giorgianni stresses the project is not about who can or cannot afford an outfit or where they may have acquired the dress.

“Anyone who wants to pick out a gown or a suit can and will be given the choice to keep it or return it,” said Giorgianni. “Everyone deserves to feel the magic of this special day and we want to make that happen for all our graduates.”

Although COVID has changed the scope in which graduation ceremonies are held, graduates are still participating in a unique physical-distancing ceremony, as was experienced in June 2020, using outdoor settings complete with car parades and drive-by diploma pick-ups. To donate or to volunteer, contact G.P. Vanier Secondary office 250-338-9262 or 250-338-2110. Alternatively, send a message via email to

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