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After Sandy, Long Beach High School tries to save after-prom party with fashion show

Long Beach High School senior Rachel Barkan struts

Long Beach High School senior Rachel Barkan struts the runway in the 2013 Morning Madness fashion show. (March 6, 2013) Credit: Tara Conry

Life in Long Beach has been far from glamorous since superstorm Sandy struck four months ago. Residents have had to pump out seawater and shovel sand from their houses, throw away most of their belongings and take shelter with friends and relatives as they gut and restore their houses.

However, it was a different scene inside Long Beach High School Wednesday night, though, as members of the Class of 2013 shared a Cinderella-like experience. In one room, the girls laughed and smiled as a crew of professionals and parent volunteers did their hair and makeup. Then, they gushed and snapped photos as each one stepped into extravagant gowns, which were borrowed from Runway Couture in Merrick, David’s Bridal in Westbury, Femmena in Lynbrook and Bridal Reflections in Massapequa.

Down the hall, young men were also grinning and posing for pictures as they fixed their bow ties and flashed their stylish vests courtesy of Snider’s Formal Wear in Oceanside.

“It feels pretty good because we’ve been down and we’ve been dirty .?.?. It’s a complete transformation,” said senior Kayla Peers, 18, who was displaced from her home for nearly four weeks.

Peers was one of 160 seniors, a record number, who modeled in a fashion show at Long Beach High School to raise funds for Morning Madness, an after-prom party that the school’s PTSA has been hosting for the past 21 years.

“We rent out a venue from midnight to 5 a.m., so students have somewhere to go after prom that is drug- and alcohol-free,” explained Betsy Glazer, one of five co-chairs on the PTSA’s Morning Madness Committee.

In recent years, the party has been held at Dave and Buster’s in Westbury, which is a short drive from the Chateau Briand, where the prom takes place. Students play arcade games, bowl, dance to a DJ and enjoy refreshments donated by the community. Every senior at the party has a chance to win a laptop and a brand-new car at the end of the night. (Recent winners have gone home with a Nissan Xterra.)

The party is not cheap, though. Since the PTSA must pay to rent out the venue and purchase the prizes, they need to raise at least $35,000, which they have done in the past by garnering sponsorships and holding three fundraisers. This year, hitting that number is proving to be much more challenging.

The PTSA had to cancel its two other fundraisers because of Sandy, and sponsorships are down because the group could not solicit donations as families and local businesses were reeling from the storm.

“People were trying to get housing for their kids, so we had to put a stop to everything,” Glazer said.

Realizing the fashion show would be their only full-scale fundraiser for Midnight Madness, the Class of 2013 came out in record numbers to participate, raising $9,000. More than 60 boys signed up to model in the show, including Greg Dentice, 18, who is still displaced from his home.

“It’s nice to have all of [us] together, because we don’t get to hang out very much because a lot of people are displaced,” he said.

To participate in the show, some students had to endure long bus rides to travel to the stores providing the fashions because their families lost their cars during Sandy, explained Glazer.

“Their effort shows how much they want to do be a part of this .?.?. to feel good about themselves for the night,” she added.

Long Beach High School principal Gaurav Passi added, “No one can argue that this class’ resiliency and dedication has been tested. Despite the personal hardships many of these students continue to face, their spirits are high and their dedication and commitment to Long Beach remains strong.”

If Midnight Madness does take place this year, the PTSA may see a record turnout from the Class of 2013 for the party.

“This year, I think almost everyone’s going, because it’s the last hurrah, our last experience to be together,” said Brianna Olfano, 17.

Weathering Sandy strengthened the bonds among the senior class, according to Olfano.

“Everyone’s like family,” she said. “It’s like a group of people who you know you can trust and who will be there for you.”

The PTSA received a large assortment of prizes to raffle during the fashion show that were donated by local businesses, as well as some autographed merchandise from comedian and Long Beach High School alum Billy Crystal. Chateau Briand, which is hosting the prom pro bono this year, is also holding an event in April for Long Beach’s senior girls to pick out dresses donated by Estelle’s Dressy Dresses and Bridal Reflections. Radio host Halftime Howie has secured some tuxedo donations for the boys and is working on getting more.

Glazer is hopeful that perhaps a dealership will come forward to donate a car so the PTSA doesn’t have to purchase one this year.

“It’s a time of giving,” said Olfano. "Morning Madness is so important to everyone from the town, it brings the entire community together, so every little bit helps.”

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the fund can send donations to: Long Beach High School PTSA, 322 Lagoon Dr. West, Lido Beach, NY 11561.

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