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Smithtown students organize prom dress event

File photo of a prom dress from Saks

File photo of a prom dress from Saks Fifth Avenue at the Walt Whitman Mall. Photo Credit: Handout

Tis’ the season for satin and tulle as the high school prom season is right around the corner.

While many girls around Long Island are already in full-on prom dress shopping mode, one group of charity-minded high schoolers has been collecting dresses for others.

“We are so excited for our prom this year,” said Justine DeRosa, 16, of Smithtown High School East, who is among a group of 12 girls planning to hand out dresses to those in need on Sunday. “We couldn’t imagine not being able to go because you didn’t have a dress to wear. We just wanted to help girls.”

DeRosa and her classmate and co-organizer PJ Bracciodieta are part of a group called Proud Girls, which is based in St. James, where both DeRosa and Bracciodieta live.

Proud Girls, founded four years ago by Diane Prefontaine, of Smithtown, and Carla Alpert, of Great Neck, sponsors teams of girls who want to take part in community service each month and offers them support through an online community. Prefontaine said there are seven teams across Long Island.

She said DeRosa's and Bracciodieta’s dress event will be Proud Girls' biggest yet.

“Their effort has been amazing,” she said. “This is our biggest event in terms of planning and doing it on their own independent of any adults.”

DeRosa and Bracciodieta felt passionate about helping girls go to their high school proms, so their team reached out to boutiques across Long Island and New York City for dress donations and have also been collecting them via a local drive through businesses and family members. They have collected 122 new and used dresses, and have promises for more dresses coming in throughout this week.

On Sunday, DeRosa’s group, called Team Dozen Divas -- all students at Smithtown East -- will hold a special event at the Holiday Inn Express in Stony Brook where girls in need of a free dress can browse their selection and try on dresses. Participants will walk out with a free dress of their choice and also makeup for the big day, donated by Maybelline.

DeRosa said the event will take place from noon to 3 p.m. and is open to anyone, not just girls from their community. DeRosa said she expects it to be a fun experience for everyone.

“It’s at a hotel, not a school gym, which some organizations do,” she said. “We want it to be fun and everyone to be comfortable. There will be music and balloons.”

Space and dresses are limited. Girls interested in attending on Sunday must RSVP by emailing freepromdress@live.com. Reply emails will be used as tickets for the event and only 120 people will be admitted.

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