Donated gowns make another prom special

VHS senior Neah Lynch wears a prom dress that was donated to the high school. - Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo
VHS senior Neah Lynch wears a prom dress that was donated to the high school.
— image credit: Natalie Johnson/Staff Photo

Neah Lynch, a senior at Vashon High School, was unsure if she would go to prom this spring. The petite and bubbly teen didn’t want to miss her senior prom. But at the same time, she said, many of her friends weren’t planning to to go and she knew she couldn’t afford an expensive dress.

That was until VHS counselor Susan Haworth pulled Lynch aside one day earlier this month and presented her with a full-length designer gown. Lynch quickly tried on the dress, and it fit her just right.

“It was kind of a Cinderella moment, honestly,” Lynch said.

Now Haworth hopes Islanders will help make prom night magical for even more VHS seniors by donating their once-used prom dresses.

Lynch’s gown was donated by VHS graduate Lauren Symonds. Symonds, who is now 22 and attends Oregon State University, recently cleaned out her closet and asked her mother, Penni Symonds, to donate two of her old prom dresses to the high school.

Penni Symonds said her daughter had held on to the dresses for a few years for sentimental reasons, but then decided they could be put to better use.

“She said, ‘I had a wonderful evening in them, so let someone else enjoy them,’” Penni Symonds said. “It was a nice gesture of Lauren to think of the high school.”

Haworth, the senior counselor at VHS, said she had a great time giving away the dresses. She knew immediately that the white, strapless Jessica McClintock gown would be perfect for Lynch. Then a few of the high school’s “fashionistas,” she said, helped her find a fit for the other dress, a similar dark green, full-length gown.

“I was pondering who it would fit, and some other kids helped me out,” Haworth said. “Everybody was pretty excited about finding somebody.”

She said both girls were surprised and thrilled to receive the dresses. The moment was especially sweet for Lynch, who loves dresses and recognized the gown’s designer because she had purchased a used Jessica McClintock dress at a second-hand store.

“I was excited to pull it out, and it was a designer I knew,” she said, “It’s a fancy dress.”

Lynch said she’s now looking forward to going to prom in May and hopes to convince more of her friends to accompany her. She’s planning to dye her new gown, which is white with a slight stain on the front. She said she’s thinking of dying it teal and perhaps adding a belt or peacock feathers for accent.

“I’m happy with the way it’s turning out,” she said. “I’m excited to add stuff to it.”

Haworth said she knows some organizations off-Island give away or sell donated prom dresses, but she doesn’t think dresses have been taken at VHS until now. She thinks many Islanders have nearly new prom dresses hanging in their closets that could be put to use by VHS seniors who can’t afford the spendy dresses. She believes some girls may even skip out on prom because a dress would cost too much.

“(The donation) was out of the blue, but I had way too much fun with it,” she said. “So I decided to see if we had other people who wanted to donate.”

As for Lynch, she says she plans to donate her dress back to the high school after prom so another girl  can use it at a future dance.

“It definitely makes it an easier decision to not have to buy the dress,” she said.


To donate a short or long dress for a VHS senior to wear to prom, contact Susan Haworth at or 463-9171 ext. 501.



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