Broadstairs’ mum’s mission to provide free school prom outfits with Thanet Community Dress Drive

Catryn doesn't want any young person to miss their prom due to financial struggles

A Broadstairs mum-of-two and local government worker has set up a Thanet Community Dress Drive to make sure youngsters can go to their school proms even if the family has no income to spare for an outfit.

Catryn Beynon, 40, has collected hundreds of items from dresses and suits to bags, make-up, jewellery and toiletries in a bid to make sure every Thanet young person can attend the end of school events.

Catryn said: “I ‘stole’ the idea from a lady I follow on Instagram but when I saw it I thought Thanet could almost certainly benefit from something like that. I hate the idea that anyone might miss out on an opportunity to celebrate their achievements in school and mark such a significant milestone because their family might be in financial hardship.

“I see families struggling in Thanet and when I was in school, I know my mum struggled to afford my May Ball dress all those years ago. I want to help all the families I can in however small a way it might be.”

Thanet youngsters in ‘absolute low income’ homes

In 2020/21 Thanet had almost 5,000 youngsters aged under 16 who were classed as in an ‘absolute low income’ family. Absolute low income is defined as a family in low income before housing costs. For the 2021 year calculations were the average (median) household income before housing costs was £539 per week (around £28,100 per year) and 60% of the median income equates to £324 per week (around £16,800 per year).

The data, published by Kent County Council last month shows the number of children across the county living in absolute low-income families has increased by 0.3% since the previous year.

Thanet has seen the biggest fall in both number and percentage with 522 fewer children living in absolute low-income families, a fall of 9.8%, compared to the previous year. However, the percentage of children in low income families in the district is still the highest in Kent at 18% (4,815 under 16s) compared to 9.3% (2,214 under 16s) in Tunbridge Wells

Thanet has the third highest proportion of children living in absolute low-income families in the South East and the highest number of children living in absolute low-income families that have at least one adult in work (3,664).

‘Overwhelmed’ by Thanet’s response

Catryn hopes to help the youngsters in those families and any others who need it.

She said: “I really wanted to do this and have wanted to do things before but didn’t have the confidence. I really wanted to do something good for the community. My youngest son George (6) has a number of disabilities and had been unwell for a number of years. But he is better now and at school so I have a bit more time to commit and decided to put the fear aside.”

Catryn says she didn’t tell her husband what se was doing but eventually had to confess as more and more items of clothing were dropped off at the house!

She said: “I reached out to the people of Thanet through facebook and instagram for donations and have been overwhelmed by the response.

“The house is completely taken over. There are five rails of clothes, suitcases, boxes in every nook and cranny. There were more than 200 dresses but I’ve lost count now, there are eight suit bags, Thanet Hygiene Bank gave toiletries and pampering products, the Tesco community lady Sue gave loads of unopened make-up testers, there are shoes, bags, jewellery.

“The majority of dresses are incredible and there is a variety of sizes from 4 to 26

“Glam Event hire have been so helpful and offered to decorate the venue for us for free.

“Sara-Louise Jones (Lisa) who was a midwife who looked after me when I was pregnant with Sebastian (now 7) has been the drop off point in Ramsgate taking in so many dresses and her help has been invaluable.”

When and where

The event will be held at the Royal Harbour Academy (upper site at Marlowe Way) on Saturday, May 21 from 10am.

Catryn said: “Royal Harbour Academy got in touch and have been absolutely incredible, so supportive and understanding. The teacher, Sam, said it was amazing and something we really need in Thanet and said to use their venue, which is really fit for purpose and has changing rooms.

“I hope pupils can come along to see what we have and hopefully find something that they love and take it home for free.”

Catryn says clothes left over, particularly items that may be more suited to work wear, will be given to the Thanet and Whitstable community clothing bank and possibly to charities working with people in refuges or using homelessness services.

Find the Thanet Community Dress Drive on facebook here

34 Comments

  1. What a stupid idea,copied from the Americans.
    Many of these children do little in their 5 years at school and then want to be like Hollywood A listers.

  2. Really peter ?

    What was wrong with going to fight with next door school ?

    We didnt even have a leaving disco we just left.

    Doesnt this American thing just out more expense on hard up families ? Yes I know this lady is doing it for free and its wonderful thing to do.

    I just get this country of ours desire to follow America.

    • Why couldn’t the school have suggested to the school-leavers that looking in charity shops for clothes would be a good idea?

      I too think this whole prom thing is a dreadful waste of money.

    • I agree with Mr X.
      There seems to be a huge emphasis on people getting glammed up, at great expense, for a one off event whether it’s tiny tots “graduating” from nursery, or a school prom, or a “fashionable” wedding.

  3. As usual a nice thing is met with derision and “it was better in my day” anyone claiming anything was better in the 70s and 80s clearly wasn’t there. You were just younger. That didn’t make the time better!

    This is a lovely scheme and idea and good luck to here.

  4. The idea is an okay one but these ‘American proms’ can get out of hand .. I can imagine everyone is dressed up .. excited .. maybe a few drinks (sneaked in ) .. someone’s got a few pills to pop .. then you end up with loads of unwanted pregnancies! .. we don’t want kids having kids .. maybe BAN the prom if this happens.. their are enough single mums as it is let’s not start making a yearly surge in 16 year old pregnancies!!

    • Are you for real!! Doesn’t need a prom for that to happen. Not all youngsters are up to no good. Some actually just want to have a nice time out

  5. The idea is fantastic for the young people leaving school and going on with there adult life.
    The problem is people these days have forgotten how to dress up for an occasion. So all those moaning about being like A listers, well it doesn’t harm anyone to take a little pride in how they look on a night out.
    I see many people out for an evening and wonder if they actually look in a mirror. In general we have become a scruffy bunch. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look clean tidy and respectable. Well done to this lady for making these youngsters night out one to remember

    • I can’t argue with that Tracey. When I put on a smart jacket/trousers and polished shoes to go to a restaurant or concert most people look at me as if I’m mad (I won’t even nip to the local corner shop without having a shave!).

  6. Wow! What a lot of sad comments and out dated views! Proms in this country have been around for years. This lady should be praised and celebrated for doing something wonderful for those children who’s families are suffering hardship. She is trying to ensure that those children do not miss out .

  7. I agree this lady is doing good for the hard up families.

    But when my kids left school for the silly American prom crap, it cost me a small fortune to get suits etc. Than all the talk was about what limousines to hire to make an entrance ! I said theres a bike in the shed..

    • In this day and age, with the cost of living going through the roof with heating, cooking, food getting ever more expensive, it seems rather thoughtless to impose on families the necessity of forking out for posh prom frocks and suits, possibly only worn once. Parents are struggling to feed their children. Why should they be given extra burdens?

      • I agree with Andrew it will be heating ir eating soon enough .. don’t bother with the prom it’s just an expensive unnecessary expense people can’t afford… the school should hang its head in shame .. they know who the poor families are they know the parents can’t afford it … BAN THE PROM

  8. I think this is a lovely idea. Personally it doesn’t have to be expensive. I was fortunate enough to buy a discounted dress with beads that were falling off. Between my mum and aunt they repaired and altered the dress. These events that schools put on are literally once in your life for some people and the memories of relaxing and having a good time with your friends lasts a life time. It may be a American trading originally but if its means that the younger generation gets to have happy memories of their last days at school surely that isn’t much of a hardship for the rest of the comunity.

    • But the creation of an event that has happy memories really doesn’t have to be an expensive event.
      It seems to me that these prom events are promoted simply because someone’s going to make money out of it.

  9. Sadly, today’s kids will bitch if the outfit is second hand. My Daughter refused to go to the prom as she didnt wsnt to be in a not expensive outfit. And yes I was a single mum but not through choice. My husband was useless and violent so please dont judge all single mums. I worked 4 jobs to pay the mortgage. Luxuries like prom dresses not an option.

  10. What a lot of miseries commenting on this. This lady is trying to do a really nice thing for our youngsters.

  11. The last two years for kids haven’t been much fun and because the tories are ruining our economy and failing to do their job you want kids not to have a leaving school prom. Wowzers. I really don’t know what to say to people some days.

    Good luck to this lady and I hope kids reading know that some of us realise it’s ok to be young and have fun. Plenty of time to become broken down old shells like the posters in this thread!!!

    • I totally agree well done its a fabulous idea and thank u so much for the generosity at such hard times for most family’s struggling to make ends meat so I’d like to thank u personally for all your efforts in taking on such a great idea for all children leaving year 11 to be able to attend a prom and not to worry about day to day issues just for 1 evening it’s about the children and after all the pandemic they carried on working hard and now are being rewarded for all there fantastic efforts sitting gcse’s beginning this week well done.

  12. Thanks to everyone who has left a positive comment- I appreciate it.

    To the naysayers- I’m doing something positive to help people – I hope you can say the same.

    While the concept of a prom is American there have been leavers parties/discos/events/May balls at school for a long time now. I left school 22 years ago and I had one. And youngsters dressing up for a special event has been going on for decades. I’m just here trying to make it affordable for those struggling. It’s nothing to do with cultural appropriation and everything to do with community.

    You’re right to cost has got out of control- hence the need for an event like mine.

    Let’s all hope it goes well. Have a lovely day. 🙂

    • Good luck on the event, I really hope it all goes well and well done for thinking of others , people these days will always find something to moan about , ughhh ………..

  13. It sadness me to read such mean bitter comments and debating whether we should have proms or not! They are happening whether you like it or not! I think we’re forgetting that this was done to help people who maybe struggling to enjoy this day and do something good! This time 2 years ago you were all banging on about being kind!! Maybe just maybe we should appreciate the KIND thought and hope it benefits the people it was intended for!! Thank you of thinking of other people Catryn and ignore the rest!

    • Could not of said it better Kerrie, these people have nothing more to do than moan moan moan, its ridiculous, people these days………….

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