Girls whose families were wiped out by Hurricane Sandy can still party in style, thanks to a New York City charity that has collected more than 1,000 prom dresses for the storm's victims.
The nonprofit group Where to Turn held a free dress expo at a Staten Island high school Saturday for teenagers whose families lost homes and cars in the massive storm. People from all over the country, as well as a Hollywood marketing firm and a prom dress company in New England, contributed gowns to the event, held in a neighborhood devastated by flooding.
The group has held smaller dress giveaways in recent years to help kids from down-and-out families afford prom night, but this year's event took on new significance after the storm damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
"Right now, people are rebuilding and they don't have enough money to take care of the normal day-to-day things ... things that, you know, kids really shouldn't miss out on," said Where to Turn executive director Dennis McKeon.
Among the roughly 125 teenagers who came through the expo was Katie Zukhovich, 15, whose home on the Staten Island waterfront filled with 7 feet of water during the storm. She picked out a black dress with a low slit in the back.
"It's really nice," she said. "Dresses are usually really expensive."
The family also lost a car in the flood.
Where to Turn was originally founded to help victims of the 9/11 terror attacks but has branched out into a variety of other charitable endeavors over the past decade. At the dress expo Saturday, it also had 250 pairs of donated shoes and $5,000 worth of hair accessories donated by Conair. A Staten Island dry cleaning company cleaned all 1,000 dresses for nothing.
"We had long, elegant, beaded gowns to short dresses to everything in between," McKeon said, adding that "I don't know much about this stuff because I have three sons."
The organization still has hundreds more dresses to give away. McKeon said he planned on approaching leaders in Queens to see about having a dress expo there for hard-hit kids in the Rockaway beach communities.