Modeling a white lace gown, Lorena Garcia glided across one of the rooms at the Chateau Briand in Carle Place, and proudly stated, “I feel like a princess.”
The 17-year-old Long Beach High School senior had just selected her prom attire from among the hundreds of donated dresses on display Thursday night inside the catering hall.
“I knew this one was the dress, because it covers my scar perfectly,” she said, pointing to the scar she has on her chest from surgeries related to congenital heart disease.
Like Garcia, every single female member of Long Beach High School’s Class of 2013 had the opportunity to get her dream dress, as well as shoes, jewelry and a handbag, at no charge, at a prom gown party hosted by the Chateau Briand.
Long Beach High School has been holding its prom at the Chateau Briand for the past seven years. But with their families grappling with hardships created by superstorm Sandy, many of this year’s seniors were considering forgoing this right of passage.
When the Scotto family, which owns the Chateau Briand, learned this, they agreed to host the 2013 prom pro bono.
“Every kid deserves a prom, they should all have that memory,” said Victoria Scotto, whose family owns the business. “They’ve been through so much and I couldn’t imagine them not having that.”
After announcing the free prom on Facebook in February, Scotto, 42, of Port Washington, received messages from friends and fans asking, “What else can we do for these kids?” So she started calling stores and within 24 hours, she had recruited a handful of businesses to give away their merchandise.
Bridal Reflections, which has locations in Carle Place, Massapequa and New York City, donated 150 dresses, and the Manhattan-based Dessy Group provided 50 gowns.
Kiersten’s Jewelry in Holbrook and Frippery, which has stores in Long Beach and Port Washington, donated accessories, and Steve Madden delivered an assortment of shoes to the high school.
Scotto also received an additional 400 new and gently-used dresses from individuals, who have been dropping them off at the catering hall every day for the past month.
Anthony Micari, 32, whose family owns Bridal Reflections and lives in Long Beach, said, “We saw first-hand the devastation of Sandy and we thought this would be a great way to give back to the community.”
The retail price of most of the dresses Micari’s store donated was between $200 and $250, he said.
While watching her daughter, Ashley, 18, try on gowns, Michelle Martin said the generous donations have made it much easier to send her daughter to prom despite the challenges her family is facing as they restore their home.
“We have no house yet,” she said.
The Martins’ one-level ranch took in more than 3 feet of water during Sandy, and they’ve been displaced to a relatives' house in Lido Beach ever since.
“I can’t wait to be home,” Ashley Martin said.
She’s also looking forward to prom on June 20, adding, “To have just all of us be together after everything we’ve been through, it’s going to be a great night.”