Cape Breton's struggling economy is trickling down to high school graduates, leaving some of them to wonder how they'll attend their prom.

The financial worry has inspired a new program by Community Cares. The group is collecting dress donations to help grads in need.

"I know that a lot of young women are opting out," said Niki MacLean, a youth outreach worker in Sydney Mines. "We want to make it a special day, and every young woman should feel special on their prom day."


Graduate Natasha Matthews holds up her new prom dress. (Joan Weeks/CBC)

Graduate Natasha Matthews, 20, comes from a family of eight. She said there is no extra money for a prom dress in her house.

"All the girls in your class, they're all going out and they can afford all this stuff," she said. "For the girls that can't, it's hard because it’s like, 'Well, I don't fit in.'"

Community Cares has collected 15 gowns so far, but hopes more will be donated.

Matthews has already picked her dress. She was overwhelmed as she tried on the glittery white gown.

"I think it's the best thing that's happened around here in a while," she said.