Each year at Paul D. Schreiber High School brings a new influx of senior parents who volunteer to put on the annual prom, known as The Gambol — a tradition that is 64 years old.
But there are a select few community members who have been volunteering much longer. Parents call them “the Godfathers of The Gambol.”
“We try to make sure kids, every year, have a better event than the year before,” said James Penrose, a 1987 graduate of Schreiber High School who has been volunteering at the prom for 31 years. He came up with the theme last year, Cirque du Soleil, when his daughter was graduating.
This year, parents of the Class of 2016 spent more than six months planning and putting on fundraisers for a South Beach–themed prom at the Castle Gould in the Sands Point Preserve Friday night. Students walked the red carpet into the castle couple by couple while their names were announced with introductions of their choice.
Before the line of limousines and party buses arrived, Penrose was the go-to for electrical and logistical questions. And long after the students filed out for the night, Penrose was there until 3:30 a.m., only to return in the morning to break down the setup -- white leather couches with sea foam pillows beneath pavilions lit by Christmas lights, a white dimly lit dance floor and a room set up for fake gambling with blackjack and poker tables. Senior portraits hung from the walls between miniature pavilion setups.
“He’ll never stop, ever,” Mara Silversteen, president of Schreiber’s Home and School Association, said about Penrose. The HSA is in charge of organizing parent volunteers and fundraisers throughout the year to make the prom happen.
Steven Kaplan, known as the “senior” godfather, was in charge of traffic Friday night, but he has been volunteering at the prom in various capacities for 29 years. His son graduated from Schreiber High School in 1988.
“The problem is that the senior parents are only the senior parents once,” he said. “So Jimmy and I become the coordinators to tell them what happens and what doesn’t happen, what the truth is and what we need to do.”
The Gambol is as much a community tradition as it is a school one. Members of the community who do not have kids graduating pay to sit in the bleachers next to the red carpet. Parents use their connections in the community to provide catering, electrical and design services.
Senior Carolyn Bollerman is the seventh generation of Schreiber graduates to attend The Gambol. She attended her aunt’s prom in 2004, and she said her whole senior year has been leading up to this point.
“Now, it’s me,” she said.
When Kaplan began volunteering while his son was in high school, The Gambol was held at the high school. But the decoration and thought that goes into it has remained consistent, he said.
“The love that comes through for what the parents do in this community is just so rewarding,” he said. “It just makes you melt.”