For victims of Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York City and much of the east coast in October 2012, saving up money for a prom dress is likely an unrealistic goal. Many families had their homes and lives shattered when the brutal storm hit, leaving them with nothing but their lives and the clothes on their backs. Homes and possessions were not among those spared, and rebuilding from the ground up has made life hard for many.
But for teenagers trying to move forward, prom isn’t something that is likely to be forgotten. Though they may be struggling through a personal hardship at home, that doesn’t take away the fact that for many, attending prom is a rite of passage. Girls who are juniors or seniors may have dreamed for the past few years about getting the perfect dress and having the time of their lives before they head off to college or work. But for the tens of thousands of families who are just trying to get their lives back together, being able to afford a prom dress isn’t likely to be something they can do.
That’s what the nonprofit group Where to Turn has decided to do something about. The group collected over a thousand prom dresses this year—and they plan to pass them all out to teens who had homes and cars destroyed during the storm. The dresses were collected not just from generous givers (individuals and businesses) in the New York area, but were also sent in from around the country.
And now that prom season is here, the group has started getting the dresses to those who need them. They held a free dress expo on Saturday, April 6th at a Staten Island high school. About 125 teenagers came to the event, perusing the gowns and choosing one to take home. There were also about 250 pairs of donated shoes and $5,000 in donated hair items from Conair. The dresses (all 1,000) had all been dry cleaned for free by a Staten Island dry cleaning company.
“Right now, people are rebuilding and they don’t have enough money to take care of the normal day-to-day things… things that, you know, kids really shouldn’t miss out on,” said Dennis McKeon, who is the Executive Director at Where to Turn. With hundreds more dresses to give away, McKeon says the group is working on organizing other free dress expos in hard hit areas like Queens and the Rockaways.