When Vincent Celeste’s name was announced shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday as the winner of a 2013 black Ford Fiesta sedan, he was in disbelief.
“It’s too good to be true,” he said at Warehouse 5 in Island Park, where the Oceanside Parent-Teacher Association hosted its 23rd annual “Dawn Delirium” after-prom party.
Celeste credited his grandparents with helping him win. Like many Oceanside residents, they were displaced from their home for a month after it was flooded by superstorm Sandy. But that didn’t stop them from purchasing more than a dozen raffle tickets to sponsor this year’s Dawn Delirium, and in turn, improve Celeste’s odds.
Selling the $5 “Sponsor a Senior” tickets is the primary way students raise money to cover the costs of the roughly $30,000 event, but the financial strains Sandy caused made the task more challenging. At Friday’s graduation, the PTA still needed $250 to pay for the car, so one parent wrote a check to cover the deficit.
Many local businesses, which donate the food served at the event and provide discounts on the prizes, were also hurting from Sandy. But inspired by the way students came to their aid after the storm, they were more generous than ever, said Sandie Schoell, 60, a 17-year member of the steering committee that organizes the event.
“Our kids from the high school really rallied and went out into the community even though their own homes were destroyed,” Schoell said. “Because of that, the community really remembered them and wanted them to have a great year.”
The event is designed to let seniors continue the prom celebration in a drug- and alcohol-free environment.
“They can’t bring any bottles or pills inside,” explained Sandie Schoell. “If they have to take medication, it needs to be registered beforehand… I have a pharmacist here.”
Each attendee was searched upon entering the venue and supervised by volunteers, school security guards and the nightclub’s security staff.
“We don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning and have a community destroyed, because we’ve lost a child,” said Schoell, 60.
Instead of directing their limousine drivers to Manhattan or the Hamptons, hundreds of members of the Class of 2013 and their dates showed up, mingling in the club’s waterfront lounge, dancing and munching on sandwiches, snacks, cupcakes and candy.
“This is more fun than prom,” said Scott Schulz, 18.
While sipping an extra-large coffee to get through the five-hour overnight party, Oceanside High School principal Mark Secaur, 44, said, “I love the fact that we have a safe alternative for the students and that they come here and they’re enthused.”
To encourage students to attend “Dawn Delirium,” the PTA raffled off $5,000 in prizes over the course of the night before the car giveaway, including a flat-screen TV and coffee machines. The seniors had to be present and have met all the requirements to graduate to win.
For Schulz, attending Dawn Delirium was less about winning prizes and more about spending time with his classmates before he leaves for SUNY Cortland in the fall.
“I’m just here to see my friends,” he said. “It’s going to be the last time I’m going to see a lot of them.”