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In search of dresses — Olympic High School program provides dresses for school dances

Catherine Kamp looks at the window display for the
Catherine Kamp looks at the window display for the 'Oly Boutique' at Olympic High School. Kamp is one of the volunteers that helps gather dresses for girls to wear at school dances. Because dresses can be costly, the program allows for girls to borrow a dress or keep it — for free.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

“Isn’t it $100 for a dress?” a student casually asked as she walked into Olympic High School with several dresses slung behind her back.

Catherine Kamp, a volunteer for the “Oly Boutique” corrected the student. The dresses are free.

The Oly Boutique, run by Kamp and Katie Fanua, the school’s security guard, is a program where donated dresses are provided to girls for the high school’s dances at no charge. The girls can choose to keep the dress or donate it back to the program.

The program, which has been around for about six years, really took flight when Kamp began to help out last school year, said Fanua.

Kamp, who has a daughter in 11th grade, heard of students not being able to attend school dances because they couldn’t afford to purchase formal dresses.

“I was a little heartbroken,” Kamp said. “I knew there were dresses to be had. I just wanted to find them.”

The boutique — located in the theater’s back room — has nearly 100 dresses ranging from size 2 to 26, said Kamp. Fanua and a teacher started the program with 15 to 20 dresses, Fanua said, adding that they started receiving shoes last year as well.

The school’s homecoming dance, which is scheduled for Oct. 29, has some students already eyeing the dresses.

“We’ve already had a couple girls come in for dresses,” said Fanua. “I’ll meet them during lunch or in between classes.”

The girls do not need to fill out any paperwork and no questions are asked, said Kamp.

“I don’t care. There are so many families in bad shape,” Kamp said of those struggling economically. Dresses purchased full price at a retailer could cost up to $200, she added.

Kamp, who is a nurse at Harrison Medical Center, reached out to her colleagues, who have donated dresses. The hospital’s gift shop has also helped out, she added. TeeDee Consignment and Off the Rack in Old Town Silverdale have also donated dresses.

Aside from dropping off newly donated dresses to the school one to three times a week, Kamp also hems dresses that need a little tune-up and can do simple beading.

Ultra Custom Cleaners has offered them free dry cleaning service for dresses that need cleaning, Kamp said, adding that the business offers the service to a similar dress program at Central Kitsap High School.

“Everyone has done their part in the community to help us out,” said Kamp.

Fanua said that they get the word out about the program through emails, newsletters and word of mouth. Last year, they opened up the boutique to the junior high school students in the Central Kitsap School District for their freshmen dance, Fanua added.

“It wasn’t as big until Catherine came. We’re just starting to spread now,” Fanua said.

Kamp doesn’t want to have a family’s financial circumstance prohibit a student from being able to attend a school dance.

“I want them to have a full, fun teenage career,” Kamp said.

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