SOUTH BRUNSWICK — With a red carpet, red ropes, the Hollywood skyline — and even “paparazzi” — South Brunswick High School’s Viking Closet ballgown event gave girls of the region the opportunity to feel beautiful before the ball.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 19, “VIPS” (students) were able to browse through hundreds of dresses that were sorted and sized, said Carla Garcia, a social worker at the school who is also Viking’s counselor. Closet.
The girls were able to try on as many dresses as they wanted and then literally strut down the catwalk, she said.
“Viking Closet Club members worked hard for months to organize the event after two years without being able to organize the event. We had music, free raffles, jewellery, shoes and wallets. The VIPs who attended were able to ‘purchase’ a full prom look, all for free,” she said.
The annual event was open to students in Southern Brunswick, as well as school districts in the region, such as New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Hightstown, West Windsor and South River.
“We had around 70 students in attendance, 58 of whom left with gowns, many with two gowns. We had over 800 dresses to start with, all of which were lovingly donated by members of the community.
“We had several parents who attended with their young adults. Comments were: “I had goosebumps walking in. It’s such a special day for my daughter.” “I cried seeing how happy my daughter was in the dress she found. Thank you very much for today. “My daughter was able to attend the event this morning. Let me say, thank you, thank you, thank you for the opportunity to go to the event. She found the dress of her dreams. My little one said the dress she found exceeded her expectations. I am a single mother of four children and I was afraid that I would not be able to see her smile while preparing for her prom. I will share this experience with everyone I know. I appreciate receiving an invitation and thank you very much for making this possible. “
The purpose of the event was twofold, Garcia said: to help students find the perfect dress and to recycle, keeping dresses out of the landfill.
There were no financial requirements to attend the event. Attendees were allowed to make a food donation for the South Brunswick Food Pantry or a monetary donation to help offset the running costs of future events, she said.
Garcia said the biggest commercial sponsor is Lola’s in Manalapan.
“This is the second year in a row that Melanie, owner of Lola’s, has donated over 30 brand new dresses with tags. She is really amazing because she sees the magic that this event conveys to the students,” she said.
Garcia said she and her co-counsellor Rosa Mariano-Brandao couldn’t be more proud of the members of the club.
“We have an amazing Board of Directors who have shown such great leadership in coordinating the reopening of the Viking Closet. We are a free clothing store located in South Brunswick High School and after being closed for almost two years, the closet is open again. We have seasonally appropriate clothing for students to purchase during lunch and after school.
“The clothes are once again donated by the community and the items we have received during the school year have been spectacular. Many items come brand new with tags and it was a great learning moment for our students. They will buy in amazement and wonder why anyone would give away these items when they are practically or really new. We help students recognize that while donor tastes and sizes may have changed, leading to a donation, repatriating and reloving clothes is good for everyone,” Garcia said.
This year, the office of Senator Andrew Zwicker, of New Jersey’s 16th Legislative District—Zwicker is also a resident of southern Brunswick—hosted a winter coat drive for the Viking Closet, which resulted in a donation of 13 new coats for the closet.
Follow the Viking Closet on Instagram @SBHSVikingCloset to learn about upcoming events.