On Saturday, March 11, The Boys and Girls Club of Airdrie will be holding the 2023 Adopt-A-Grad Foundation Formal Wear Event from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Mike and Lori Reist, an Airdrie couple who was recently awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medals for their tireless volunteering in the community are also the individuals who were integral in starting the initiative several years ago.

"It gives the grad[uates] a chance to celebrate with their peers. As I've always said, they have worked hard for three years to get to this point and that's one less barrier, they have to be able to get to celebrate," Mike Reist said. "This gives them a chance to not worry about the cost of a grad suit or grad dresses and they get to celebrate an event that only happens once in their lifetime."

Lori explained that donations of both gently used and brand-new graduation attire including ball gowns, cocktail dresses, suits, dress shirts and everything in between are gathered throughout the year. She underlined that formal wear is free.

"As Mike said, this is a huge milestone that they [the students] have reached. They have made it from kindergarten all the way through to Grade 12. Effectively, this is the start of their adulthood. We like to frame it as: this is not a charity for them. We're not just giving them a handout, it's about them knowing that it's a gift from the community," she said.

Lori said that students can self-refer themselves and the process is anonymous.

"I think something I'd really like to say to people is there are far more people in Airdrie, in Alberta, in Canada, especially right now that are struggling to make ends meet. The bare necessities are difficult, let alone anything that might be considered extra, like a celebration," she said. "So, I think it's important to know that you are by far not alone we are here to help."

When asked how the community has come together for the formal wear event, Reist said that as the price of almost everything is increasing and many in the community can relate. 

"The cost of grad has gotten significantly higher in the last 15-20 years, so, it's a very relatable and very easy initiative for the community to stand behind," he said. "And most people in the community know somebody who is struggling. The need is there."

He added that they will not turn anyone away and that there is no financial requirement.

The Reists reflected that the initiative all started after a single mother reached out to Mike asking if he had a suit for her son. Within days, Reist, with the help of the Airdrie Dads community had amassed approximately $500. Since then, the event has become an example of how the community comes together to not only celebrate its young graduates but also in how the community comes together so that all students can cherish a once-in-a-lifetime memory. 

Send your news tips, story ideas, pictures, and videos to news@discoverairdrie.com