Teen Wears Potato Sack Dress to Prom to Raise $10K for Charity

Instead of dropping a bundle on a dress, she raised a bundle for orphans.

ByABC News
June 18, 2014, 3:15 PM
Courtney Barich of Surrey, B.C., traded in a $700 gown for a burlap dress to raise money for charity.
Courtney Barich of Surrey, B.C., traded in a $700 gown for a burlap dress to raise money for charity.
Courtesy Courtney Barich

— -- A Canadian teen whose mom told her she would “look good in anything, even a potato sack,” while shopping for a “grad” dress took that as a challenge and raised $10,000 for charity in the process.

Courtney Barich, an 18-year-old from Surrey, B.C., was shopping with her mom and sister for a dress for grad – the Canadian equivalent of prom in the U.S. – last December when her mom uttered those words as Barich was mulling a particularly pricey dress.

“As we were driving we were debating whether it was worth the $700 and which dress do I actually want,” Barich told ABC News. “Then my mom said that and the idea escalated.”

Barich decided she would wear exactly what her mom said – a potato sack made of burlap – to her school’s grad in May and use the gimmick to raise money for the Saint Martin de Porres Orphanage in Manila, an orphanage she and her classmates at Holy Cross Regional High School were planning to visit in March.

“I’m not sure why I chose $10,000,” Barich said of the fundraising bar she set for herself. “It was just a number that came to my head.”

The teenager created a website and a Facebook page and watched as the donations began to pour in.

“The local news picked up on it and it just spread by social media and word of mouth,” Barich said.

The story caught the eye of was Suman Faulkner, a local fashion designer who donated her time and expertise and the materials needed to turn Barich’s potato sack into a fashionable gown.

“I think the whole thing cost $40,” said Barich. “The most expensive thing was the thread to hold the burlap together.”

Barich visited the orphanage with her classmates in March and told them she would return in September with the money she had raised.

A last-minute donation of $2,500 from a local business pushed Barich to reach her $10,000 goal and on May 30 she attended grad in her burlap dress.

“It was actually quite comfortable, not itchy,” Barich said. “Everyone was very shocked because they all thought it was going to be more of a potato sack with two arms and a head cut out.”

Barich will take her final high school exam this Friday and then plans to visit the orphanage again in September to deliver the $10,000 she raised.

After time spent traveling abroad, Barich says she is contemplating photography school and possibly even future collaborations with Faulkner to design burlap products to raise more money.

“Before I saw images and heard stories but when you actually see it yourself and experience it, I feel very determined to raise money,” Barich said of her time at the orphanage.