When Sewanhaka High School senior Tahj Gibbons was told on Friday that there was a way for him to get free prom attire, he thought it was too good to be true.
“I thought, ‘That’s not real,’ ” said Gibbons, 17, of Floral Park, who was one of many local youths to arrive Saturday at Freeport High School for the second annual “Prom Dreams Boutique.” The program allowed high school seniors to pick out free dresses, shoes, suits, jackets, belts, ties, jewelry, makeup and other prom attire.
While he walked in not knowing his size and was admittedly “lost,” Gibbons said volunteers were able to help him pick out the perfect outift: a black suit jacket and matching pants with a purple-and-lavender-patterned tie, which had friends and volunteers gushing over how sharp he looked.
“It worked out good, it was a great experience,” said Gibbons. “I know prom at this time can get expensive, but now, I have a whole outfit for free, so it eliminates a big problem for me. I feel at ease.”
Organizers said the boutique — sponsored by the Nassau County Police Hispanic Society, Nassau County Association of Women Police and Nassau County Guardian Association — had doubled in size from last year’s inaugural event. More than 1,000 dresses were on display, all donated by businesses and police officers, and the number of tickets given to students to allow them to peruse the items doubled from a year ago. Boutique participants were chosen via recommendations from their school’s guidance offices based on scholastic merit and other criteria.
“We’re giving back to those that are a little unfortunate and don’t have what they need for that prom," said Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick J. Ryder. "They should have the same. Everybody should have an equal shot in life.”
Joanna Grima, 17, a Sewanhaka High School senior from Floral Park, had picked out a burgundy-red dress with gold trimming and was trying it on with her friend Lauren Wood.
Wood, 17, Gibbons’ cousin and a Sewanhaka High School senior from Floral Park, heard about the boutique event from a friend who went last year, and eagerly awaited the next one.
Now that she had both the dress — a gold-flecked one with patterns — and a date, Wood said she was excited about prom night. “I’m not sure if we’re going to get a limo, but now we just need to figure out our [prom attire] colors,” she said.
Grima, who will be Gibbons' date at their June 25 prom, is now also a believer.
“I didn’t believe it at first, but then I was excited because I would be able to get a dress for free, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that for prom,” Grima said.