2017-12-14 / Around Town

Dress Drive Provides Prom-Night Sparkle

Night to Shine Attendees Also Invited to ‘Shop’
By Brooke Constance White


Rogers High School students, Caeli Palmer, Emily Tollefson, Jane Leys and Meg Turner already have their eyes on prospective prom dresses that will be part of the dress give-away on Dec. 27 and 28. (Photo by Jen Carter) Rogers High School students, Caeli Palmer, Emily Tollefson, Jane Leys and Meg Turner already have their eyes on prospective prom dresses that will be part of the dress give-away on Dec. 27 and 28. (Photo by Jen Carter) The price of a prom dress can range from $100 to $400, often making it impossible for a high school student and her family to afford. But for some students from Newport and throughout the region, cost is no longer an issue, thanks to donations of gently used dresses and the efforts of several community members.

The idea to start a dress drive began three years ago when local photographer Jen Carter, at that time helping to put together a fundraiser for the Rogers High School prom, noticed a stack of dresses from previous dress drive events that no one was using.

“Nobody at the school had the bandwidth do it so I decided to take it on,” she said. “We cleaned out the old dresses and got a bunch of donations and it caught on.”


Madison Taylor and Suzanne Buckley, from Tiverton, tried on these dresses, last year, as possible choices for the prom . (Photo by Jen Carter) Madison Taylor and Suzanne Buckley, from Tiverton, tried on these dresses, last year, as possible choices for the prom . (Photo by Jen Carter) Some of the students will wear the dresses to a prom-like, red-carpet event, “Night to Shine,” hosted by OceanPointe Christian Church at the Atlantic Resort on Feb. 9. The event, which occurs in hundreds of locations across the globe on the same night and is sponsored by former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, offers those with special needs who might not have had the chance to attend prom the opportunity to have a safe and fun prom-like experience. And this year’s drive is also open to students and adults with special needs who will be attending the “Night to Shine,” in addition to those attending proms in the spring.

Diane Sheehan, art supervisor at Pell Elementary School and co-chair of the Night to Shine event, said the dress drive offers an outpouring of generosity to a community that from the outside looks well-off, but contains a surprising number of families in need.

“The dress drive is all about giving back and creating a memorable experience,” Sheehan said. “Research has shown that one of the two top things that students remember about their high school experience is how they were made to feel special, and the dress drive echoes that. We want to make students feel special, loved, and [to] create a fond memory during their high school years.”

Because students get to “shop” for the dress they like, Sheehan said the experience offers students a dignified and discreet way to get a free dress while providing the opportunity to attend a prom-like function they might not have been able to participate in.

Carter and Newport This Week owner and publisher Lynne Tungett, her dress drive partner, are holding their third annual prom dress drive in late December to ensure that everyone who wants a dress for prom can get one at no cost. During the drive, any student can “shop” for a free dress, accessories and shoes.

This year, dresses will be given out at the Newport Housing Authority Senior Center at 1 Park

Holm on Dec. 27-28 from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Carter said they moved the event to the senior center so it’s more central to where many students live, and added that because the event occurs during the school vacation week between Christmas and New Year’s, students should have plenty of time to shop for the perfect dress.

In years past, high school students have come from as far as Tiverton and South Kingstown to pick out dresses. Carter said she wants to get the word out to other communities so that any student in need of a dress gets one.

“We hope to see even more people from all over come and take what they need,” she said.

Carter and Tungett will be collecting dresses until Christmas and are asking for current styles rather than vintage dresses. Donated gowns, they said, should be worn or purchased within the last five years.

“We want to find dresses that students will want to wear,” Carter said. “This year, we expect to give out more than 100 gowns.”

Many of the dresses Sheehan has been receiving come with a story from their previous wearers, which she says gives them a personal touch, “whether it was a bridesmaid at the beautiful wedding of a loved one or a previous prom attendee who said the gown made them feel beautiful when they wore it to their prom night,” she said.

“Even the boutiques, neighboring churches and businesses that are donating dresses bring a story with each dress,” Sheehan added. “It’s all about spreading a message of giving and there’s no better season to do this than now.”

A Night to Shine

OceanPointe Christian Church has announced that they will serve as one of more than 450 churches around the world that will simultaneously host “Night to Shine,” sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience for those with special needs, says the OceanPointe website, “celebrating those who truly deserve to be celebrated. This year’s Party promises to be a night to remember!”

The only Night to Shine event in Rhode Island will take place beginning at 6 pm at the Atlantic Resort, 240 Aquidneck Ave. in Middletown. Individuals with special needs across Rhode Island and surrounding communities in Massachusetts and Connecticut are invited to take part in this very special night at no cost to them.

Registration is open now at oceanpointeri.com/nts/. The deadline to register is Tuesday, Jan. 9, but those wishing to attend are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible, as space is limited.

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